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Referral scheme helps hundreds with active lifestyle changes

Active Health

Active Health is a referral scheme designed to support those whose quality of life could be improved by implementing active lifestyle changes. Whether you have an existing health condition, are recovering from an operation, experiencing poor mental health, or present other risk factors for disease (such as high blood pressure or arthritis), Active Health could provide you with personalised, subsidised support.

Your GP or health professional can refer you to the Active Health scheme if they believe physical activity could improve your wellbeing. You can find more information about the qualifying factors and read on for more information about how Active Health works in Chelmsford.

New Cabinet role reflects commitment to health

Chelmsford City Council’s new Cabinet team was announced at Annual Council in May. Cabinet roles reflect the administration’s priorities for the coming four years, and some policy areas have been given a new emphasis – including championing residents’ health through an active lifestyle.

Councillor Natacha Dudley has taken on the new role of Cabinet Member for an Active Chelmsford, combining her previous role as a Cabinet Deputy for the voluntary sector with new responsibility for leisure and heritage in Chelmsford. Cllr Dudley will oversee the council’s services for leisure centres, community sport initiatives, outdoor sports facilities and important recreational spaces such as Hylands Estate.

The creation of this Cabinet position reflects the council’s commitment to making Chelmsford a more active district, and ‘Active Health’ hopes to facilitate that.

Exercise Class

Hundreds of residents have already benefitted from the scheme

Since Active Health launched in November 2021, Chelmsford’s participating leisure centres have received over 600 referrals. A funding boost from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund earlier this year means the scheme is set to help even more residents improve their quality of life.

"This funding has enabled us to implement a programme lead for the scheme within the Chelmsford district. Having a dedicated expert who can drive Active Health and allow it to help as many people as possible is invaluable.

For many, introducing active lifestyle changes can feel like a very daunting task, and having guidance can relieve that feeling of overwhelm. The fact that this programme can help people with such diverse needs – from those recovering from a long-term physical illness, to those experiencing poor mental health – is a real testament to the power of physical activity.

Active Health has already benefitted hundreds of residents and shown us that a change in lifestyle can have an enormous impact on individuals’ long-term health. Over the next four years, we hope to prove that an active community is a healthy community, and I’m confident that Active Health will play a huge role in that."

Cllr Natacha Dudley, Cabinet Member for an Active Chelmsford

Long term benefits for participants and the community

As well as being life-changing for those taking part, the scheme aims to relieve some strain on our NHS.

Many conditions that can be improved with lifestyle changes are also capable of developing into more serious illnesses. By committing to activity plans, participants can avoid longer term problems and even eliminate the need for long term prescriptions – both of which have wider reaching benefits to our health system.

Andrew Cox, Health and Fitness Manager for Chelmsford City Council, says seeing the benefits a physical activity programme can bring to Active Health participants is the most rewarding aspect of his job.

"There’s nothing like seeing the progress that can be made when someone commits to reaching their goals – whether that’s to stand up from a chair without support or decrease their anxiety levels – and I know that our team here feel the same. We’ve invested a lot in staff training to ensure that we can deliver highly effective and personalised programmes, and it’s great to see everyone’s hard work pay off."

Andrew Cox, Leisure Centres Health and Fitness Manger
Our Chelmsford Card

What does an Active Health referral look like?

Once you’re referred by your GP or health professional, the first step will be to meet with one of our specialist training team at your chosen leisure centre for a free assessment session. In this initial session, your trainer will work with you to understand your goals and create a personalised activity programme that works for you. The trainer will have your referral information, but that’s only half of what they need to know! Finding out what motivates you will enable them to develop a truly personalised twelve-week programme.

Programmes utilise the facilities available at Riverside Leisure Centre, Chelmsford Sport & Athletics Centre, and South Woodham Ferrers Leisure Centre. All participants benefit from subsidised pricing, with the choice to opt for a multi-site membership at half price (£73.50 for 3 months) or discounted pay-as-you-go sessions.

Once your programme is decided, you’ll have two further supervised sessions. In the first, your trainer will explain the programme and work through it with you. In the next, they will observe you, to ensure you’re carrying out the programme safely and can progress without supervision.

Your progress will be reviewed by your trainer at four, eight and twelve weeks, and centre staff will always be available should you need any assistance.

Yoga Class

Who does Active Health work for?

You can be referred to Active Health providing you are at least 14 years of age, in a clinically stable condition and compliant with your prescribed medication.

Our specialist qualified trainers will provide regular support and plenty of engagement, but it is important you are motivated to make the lifestyle changes they advise. Only you can guarantee your commitment to the twelve-week programme they design for you.

Our knowledgeable and encouraging centre teams will be on-hand to support you throughout!

What happens at the end of the twelve-week programme?

No personal activity programme is designed without consideration of what happens next. Our trainers hope that once you’ve completed this programme, you’ll continue on the journey of active living – however that looks for you.

"Of course, we don’t want the end of the programme to be the end of your involvement with the centre (or centres) you’re using. We hope that everyone who takes part will continue to come in and work with us – whether they continue with their designed programme or move on to new activities. That’s the beauty of active living: however fast or slow your progress, there’s always a further step to take and a new activity to try.

If you choose not to continue with a centre membership, we can suggest free activities, outside of the centres, that suit you. What’s important is that you keep active and healthy!"

Phil Abram, Active Health Programme Lead

How will Active Health benefit you?

To get a real understanding of the impact Active Health can make, we asked previous and current participants what they think. Here’s what they told us:

"I had reservations about joining the programme, as I had never used a gym before, but all the staff are knowledgeable and helpful and very understanding of your needs. They tailored my activities to suit my health conditions and made me feel totally at ease and comfortable. The exercise program has been massive help to my fitness and weight, and has helped me mentally as well. To anyone curious about joining, I thoroughly recommend this service – and please don’t think you will be out of place or look foolish, as you won’t."

I found the health programme gave me more information on how to keep healthy and increase my exercise. The staff were helpful and gave me the confidence to use different types of equipment. This has encouraged me to continue attending the gym on a regular basis.


"I’ve been on a private gym program before, but it didn’t work for me; I felt tired and washed out every day and, in the end, I gave up. Recently though, I got started with Active Health and boy, what a turnaround. In just six weeks my fitness and stamina have rocketed. I can now walk distances, crouch and stand back up without holding on to drag myself up, and stairs have become easy. It’s hard work, but with the backing, direction, enthusiasm and confidence from Active Health, you feel that you can achieve your goal. This time I know I’m going to make it."

"I was at a low point in my life when the GP suggested I try Active Health. My body was screaming NO, but I listened to my head and took the GP’s advice. After alienating myself from the world in an alcoholic haze, plagued by self-hatred and destructive thinking, I told myself I had nothing to lose. The new alcohol-free, cigarette-free and employed me is grateful to the Active Health programme, the GP who recommended it to me, and the gym staff for their personal advice and kindness. My advice to anyone uncertain about this programme is give it a go – what have you got to lose compared to what you have to gain? I can honestly say it saved my life."

If you think you could qualify for Active Health, please get in touch with your GP or health professional. You can find more information about eligibility.

If you think Active Health could be right for someone you know, please share this article with them or tell them to search “active health Chelmsford”. Our fantastic trainers are ready and waiting to help them improve their lives!

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Molly Smith
Molly Smith

Molly writes stories about public health, community safety, leisure, community sport, parking and Chelmsford Market.