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Health clubs make case for 'essential service' status with COVID rehab programmes

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We will also support a further group of people living with long-term conditions, who have not contracted COVID-19, but whose physical and mental health may have deteriorated during lockdown.

As health clubs prepare for reopening, some are introducing programmes designed to help people recovering from the effects of COVID-19.

In the latest issue of HCM magazine, industry organisations and operators involved with these initiatives explain their work in an extended feature, researched and written by HCM's editor-at-large, Kate Cracknell.

Among the legacies of COVID-19 will be a long-term requirement to support those affected the virus, by providing dedicated rehabilitation and support services to help people manage and recover from health conditions including Long COVID.

Exercise plays a key role in this and the current medical guidance is for people to get back to their previous level of activity as soon as possible – even aiming to be more active.

Answering this call – and at the same time making the case for fitness as an "essential service" – operators and training companies have created schemes particularly designed to help COVID-sufferers.

Go fit has set up the RICOVR project, which is taking a scientific approach to developing an exercise prescription model for COVID recovery, working together with the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) in Sheffield, UK.

Professor Alfonso Jimenez – who splits his time between the GO fit LAB, the AWRC and EuropeActive’s new research centre, Think Active – is leading the project.

“The work of the RICOVR unit, based at the AWRC, provides evidence of what works to support people recovering and rehabilitating from COVID-19,” he explains.

“We’re particularly interested in supporting those with long COVID-19 symptoms, whose recovery journey is complex and non-linear.

“A further group of people living with long-term conditions, who have not contracted COVID-19, but whose physical and mental health may have deteriorated during lockdown, will also be supported through the research agenda of RICOVR."

Nuffield Health in the UK has created a 12-week rehabilitation programme to support COVID-19 patients in their recovery.

Blending physical therapy – including exercise – with mental health support, the programme is being piloted in partnership with Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, with the trust having referred all patients involved in the pilot.

Following an initial online triage, conducted by a specially trained Nuffield Health physiotherapist, the programme involves a recovery plan for every participant, as well as personalised advice from a rehab specialist.

Dr Davina Deniszczyc, charity and medical director at Nuffield Health, said: "We know that some patients who have contracted COVID-19 are going to need specialist support during their rehabilitation.

"Evidence from previous epidemics, such as SARS and MERS, shows it can take years for some patients to recover.

"However, many COVID-19 patients are being discharged from hospital with no formal recovery plan. We believe this is likely to result in a longer recovery process and prolonged side-effects."

Others to introduce COVID recovery programmes as their facilities reopen are Serco Leisure and Life Leisure.

Serco Leisure has announced the roll-out of its Rebuild training programme, which aims to inform, educate, and prepare health club teams dealing with customers who have been affected by COVID-19 and are seeking guidance and support.

Rebuild is offered by training provider CAWS. It is one of three short courses – the others being called Rebound and Fortitude – which train people to deliver a range of interventions designed for a ‘continuum of needs’ from COVID-19 rehabilitation, to working with vulnerable individuals with chronic disease.

Life Leisure's COVID Recovery Pack has been created in partnership with the operator's exercise referral team.

Comprising a pedal exerciser, three levels of resistance band and information on recovery, the packs were dropped off at the homes of those in need, with each recipient teamed up with a Life Leisure referral coach.

Michelle Childs, health development manager at Life Leisure, said: "It's simple for instructors to deliver to patients, even in the case of a further lockdown."

• To read more about how the fitness industry is serving those with COVID-related rehabilitation needs, click here for Issue 2 2021 of HCM magazine.

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