With social prescribing currently high on the agenda, GPs are starting to recognise ways of doing things differently to enable patients to take steps to boost their own health and wellbeing. No more so than at Littlewick Medical Centre in Ilkeston, who are encouraging patients – particularly those with diabetes – to give jogging a go. They’ve teamed up with Jog Derbyshire group Ilkeston Joggers to introduce their patients to a couch to 5k programme in a friendly, social and supportive atmosphere. It’s given patients the confidence to try something new and be active with people of similar fitness levels and with similar medical conditions.
Kriss Owen is a GP at Littlewick Medical Centre. As part of Self Care Week, she tells us why she’s so passionate about jogging as a way of enabling her patients to manage their own health and the benefits it brings.
Recognising the benefits of jogging
“I hated PE at school. It was badly done and all about being good at sport. It was that culture of worrying about being picked last which put me off doing any sport once I’d left.
“It was only when my husband started doing triathlons and I went to watch him that I started to get interested in running. It looked quite fun. The people doing it didn’t look too sporty and there wasn’t a team to let down.
“A friend invited me out running and I loved it. I love how you can chat, see nice countryside, talk about any problems and always feel loads better afterwards.
“I now run with a group in Nottingham and I was speaking to a GP who had set up a couch to 5k group for her patients. What an amazing idea, I thought.
“I joined them on one of their runs and it was such an inspiring experience. There was such a wide range of ages and nationalities – from a lady running with her Dad to people running with Grandchildren, people who were suffering from pain or bereavement. It was so lovely to hear their stories and see what they were getting from it.
Bringing jogging to Littlewick
“I wondered if we could do something similar at Littlewick and after a bit of research came across Jog Derbyshire and got in touch with local group Ilkeston Joggers.
“I had a conversation with them, explained I wanted to set up a couch to 5k group and could they support or did they have any ideas. It turned out they already do a number of them throughout the year, with the next one starting exactly when I was thinking of doing it so joining up made sense.
“The group were really great and sent some people to our launch event to talk about it. Jog Derbyshire had people who knew about all the motivational stuff and knew which local routes were good. It was good to be able to see how they do things.
“I was also able to do jog leader training thanks to sponsorship from Councillor Robert Flatley. That was great, really good for learning about how to encourage people, learn about stretching exercises and general running tips. I’ve even shared these with the other running group I go to and people are telling me how they’ve tried different techniques.
How exercise helps with diabetes
“I’m the GP lead for diabetes both at Littlewick and across Erewash so I know how effective exercise is for managing diabetes and particularly in self-care as watching what you eat and keeping active are two of the main things you can do to help yourself.
“Jogging helps people lose weight, get their fitness back and lifts their mood as depression is common in people with diabetes. It also gives them the opportunity to link up other people with the same condition.
“We thought if people had support and medical staff in the group they would see we were doing it and come with us. One of our nurses Tracy has been really good at getting people to come because she’s never run so she tells everyone they can run at the back with her and they feel much more comfortable with that. Although a lot of patients were quite surprised when it was suggested to them, they’ve taken the leap to come and really improved week on week.
“The turnout has been amazing. We had 70 people turn up on the first night and it’s had one of the highest retention rates of any couch to 5k course they’ve done.
“One gentleman in his 70s thanked us for inviting him, otherwise he’d never have had the confidence if the medical staff weren’t there. Another lady told us how she’d always wanted to do it but never dared do it on her own. People were even gaining the confidence to go out in between the weekly group session.
Why we’ve loved joining up with Jog Derbyshire
“Jog Derbyshire is the perfect first step for people getting into jogging. I love how there is progression opportunities once people have completed the couch to 5k programme too, as Ilkeston Joggers has other levels of group for people to progress into. I didn’t want this to be something people did as a one off and then stopped.
“It’s also been a great team bonding experience for our staff. Initially they didn’t really know how they’d get on but have really got into it. It’s also been good to collaborate with our neighbour practice Gladstone House – their nurses and patients have come too.
“Being involved with Jog Derbyshire has made this so much easier. They’ve introduced to experienced leaders, helped with social media adverts and the name itself brings a crowd.
“We’re planning to do another couch to 5k in January. The hope is for us to keep doing more and encourage other GPs to give it a go too.”