Phil Johnson, aged 62 who lives near Wroxham, is proof of the benefit of self-care. Former Radio and TV journalist turned Children’s author Phil joined the community gym in February after being confronted with the prospect of taking medication for an increased blood pressure by his GP.

“I have many friends who are heading towards or have type 2 diabetes and the thought of having to take a pill for my blood pressure was the last straw for me, I thought if I can’t be bothered to look after myself then how can I expect the NHS to? You only have one body and one life after all.” Phil explains.

The Gym at Neatishead is one of six community gyms and sports centres that are part of the North Norfolk Activity Referral Scheme used by GP practices within the area of North Norfolk District Council and is designed to be run in partnership with the Broadly Active Scheme established by Broadland District Council.

Since joining at the beginning of 2016 Phil has lost 8kg, his lowest weight since he was 30years old, and is the fittest he has ever felt.

“I dreaded walking into the gym when I first joined, I thought it would be full of young athletic people but when I walked in I realised it is all about health and not about body image.

“Apart from the gym, it has made me think about all the small changes in my life that can make a difference, park your car away from the front door of the supermarket and walk a couple of hundred yards, squat or stand on one leg while boiling the kettle, use the stairs and not the lift but most importantly – do SOMETHING!”

The Gym is based at the village hall in Neatishead and runs sessions three times per week led by a qualified fitness instructor who carries out initial assessments and designs personalised exercise programmes. Members can choose from a range of service levels, with special rates for people referred by their GP. Individuals referred suffer from a range of health issues including diabetes, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, obesity and bone and joint problems.

Since the project started, over 170 different people have used the Gym and it continues to attract new members. Annual surveys show that 90% of participants have achieved or begun to achieve their health related goals.

“Exercise does not make me immune from developing or contracting illness or disease, but it does mean I am in a better position to fight things if it happens.” Added Phil.

“Ultimately it is just like not servicing or repairing your car then expecting the RAC to repair it for free when it breaks down.  This is one of the best things I have ever done.”

Dr Anoop Dhesi, Chair of North Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Phil is a prime example of how the public can take health into their own hands. Fitness is just one of the ways you can help ensure you are better equipped to fight illnesses and the positive mental effects that activity and healthy eating are not to be ignored either. Please contact your GP surgery regarding the fitness referral scheme.”

There are three sports centres that have partnerships with GP practices. The centres involved are;

  • Fakenham Sports and Fitness centre
  • Splash Leisure and Fitness centre
  • Victory swim and fitness

There are also community gyms at Neatishead, Stalham and Hickling.