Digital Fitness Classes for Patients

2020 has been a year for change. But throughout these uncertain times, a dedicated team of local fitness instructors worked with Bournemouth Hospital Charity to find a way to continue to deliver their fun fitness sessions to patients living with cancer.

Technology came to the rescue to help Carla and Angie continue to host their wellbeing classes for patients diagnosed with cancer through video calling. 

These free, hour long classes are held every Thursday and Tuesday, and see men and women of all ages and at different stages in their treatments taking part. Some participants have been attending the sessions for years, some drop in and out depending on their treatment and lifestyle, and others decide to leave if the time feels right, though they are able to continue for as long as they wish.

The classes are usually held at The Village Gym opposite the hospital and both the instructor and studio fees are covered by the Charity. It’s important that patients not only have time to focus on their treatments, but also their mental wellbeing and spend time doing fun activities.

Carla runs the Thursday Gentle Aerobics class. She said: ‘The group is wonderful; their humour and energy never fail to amaze me, I honestly feel so lucky to be their instructor. They are very close and before lockdown they would often stay behind after class for a coffee (and maybe cake!) at the cafe downstairs in The Village. Aside from the obvious physical benefits of gentle exercise, it’s the mental wellbeing that is so important. 

‘The group can look to one another for advice and I was once really pleased when a newcomer said to me after class that she really enjoyed it as she “felt like a normal human being” in class. They can wear whatever they feel comfortable in and don’t have to pretend to be feeling well if that’s not the case. They can do as much or little as they need to and as an instructor I don’t treat them any differently to my other groups – I still waffle on and we’re there to work and have fun!

‘There is such a variety of fitness levels, ages, physical abilities and individual treatments taking part at one time that the classes are generally low impact and at a level that everyone can benefit from to some degree. I welcome freestyle too, so they can adapt moves and the tempo if they want to work harder or gentler. There’s usually about half an hour of cardio work moving to music, followed by upper and lower body toning (light weights optional), and then to finish we do stretches and relaxation on the floor or seated if preferred.

‘Once the lockdown hit in March, Angie and I discussed continuing to run the classes to give continuity to the groups, knowing that many of them would be classed as vulnerable and stuck indoors. We’ve been holding the sessions over video and have had somewhere between 11 and 18 join each week, which is great!

‘Somehow we’ve ended up having a theme each week for the aerobics sessions – we’ve had ABBA, rainbows, Eurovision, flowers, 80’s, and lots more, and the music and routines change depending on the theme. I always welcome them to join me in dressing up themselves or decorating their rooms accordingly just for fun, of course it’s completely optional – but it often gives us something to laugh about!

‘I sometimes send out a private YouTube video recording of any new routines too, so that they have them for reference and can do the workouts at home at any time. Teaching and participating in a class via a screen is very different compared to being in the studio, so this also means they have a chance to watch at their own leisure.’

Angie runs a gentle yoga class every Tuesday lunchtime. The class offers a variety of different movements and stretches to help with stiffness and pain, and to build strength and flexibility. The emphasis is on listening to the needs of the body and being in tune with those needs. The class finishes with gentle breathing exercises and deep relaxation which helps calm the mind and the nervous system – to enjoy the benefits of coming into stillness.

Angie said: ‘The positivity of the group is inspiring. And above all else is the support, care and camaraderie they offer each other.’

Well done Carla and Angie – you’re doing an amazing job!

These classes are promoted through the hospital and anybody who thinks they will benefit is welcome to have a go. To find out more about taking part, please ask for Sue Parker’s details at the hospital or The Village. Sue speaks to anyone wanting to join in and is happy to discuss what happens in the sessions and answer any of your questions.

If you would like to support these amazing fitness classes for cancer patients, just £20 will pay for 1 x 1 hour session a week. You can donate online or call us on 0300 019 7060. Thank you!

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