YMCA Exercise Referral instructor, Lesley Coller, has witnessed a huge change in Angela over the past year.

“She certainly isn’t the same frail, fragile lady who approached me on her first visit!” she says.

Angela agrees, “I’m a very different person now. I was nervous about coming to the gym and the classes. I didn’t know what to expect and I couldn’t imagine being able to use the equipment.”

Angela, 64, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) in 2009 and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) in 2010, after suffering with asthma all her life. Following an MS relapse last year, she was referred to YMCA East Surrey through the Oxted Physiotherapy Clinic.

Our Exercise Referral programme enables people with a chronic health condition, disability or who are rehabilitating from an injury or illness to engage in physical activity and lead a healthier, independent, more active lifestyle.

“Although I’d attended a Seated Exercise class once before, my balance was so bad that I didn’t come back,” says Angela. “I struggle with anxiety and depression and it was very daunting to walk into the gym for the first time.”

I needn’t have worried though. As soon as I arrived, I was made to feel so welcome. I cannot fault the kindness, support and motivation that I’ve received from the staff.

Over the past year, Angela has noticed a mental and physical improvement in her health, she is sleeping better and can confidently use the necessary equipment in the gym. Her relationship with food, previously affected negatively by anxiety, has also improved and she is proud to have gained a little weight.

“I feel hungry after I’ve exercised,” she explains. “The Exercise Referral sessions are good for my body and for my mood. I get such a great feeling afterwards and I’m so busy that I don’t have a chance to be depressed.”

Angela has built a friendly relationship with other Exercise Referral members and benefits from the social interaction which this brings, both in and out of the gym.

“People have been incredibly welcoming and supportive,” she says. “I really feel like a part of a group when I never thought I would. I enjoy their humour and the warmth.”

Angela’s exercise sessions have given her a renewed sense of purpose in life.

“I’ve got more energy. I no longer just want to sit down all day. It’s as if it’s waking me up. Coming to the YMCA has become a part of me.”

Read more about Exercise Referral