MOST people associate personal trainers with expensive gyms.

But Gemma Rubery has been able to access such a valuable service at no cost at all, and has made important life changes as a result.

The single mum, who lives in the Sutton Estate area of Bradford, has completed a 12-week programme that has seen her lose more than a stone in weight. She has also learned to cook healthy meals for herself and her family.

“A trainer came to my home and went through some exercises as well as looking at meal ideas and portion sizes,” she says. “I have cut back a lot on sugary drinks - I used to drink a lot of Lucozade - and also on portion sizes, which is hard, especially if you are used to big portions.”

She became aware of the scheme, run by Bolton-based ABL Health, while visiting a local carnival where they had a stall.

“With two young children it is hard for me to go to classes and I am on benefits, so can’t afford gym membership, so it has been perfect for me.”

ABL delivers community healthcare programmes across the north of England and beyond to tackle health inequalities. They promote changes in behaviour to encourage healthier eating habits and increase physical activity to aid weight loss and improve health and wellbeing.

In the Bradford district 31 per cent of people live in the most deprived ten per cent of areas in England. The gap between the most deprived and least deprived areas of the district is one of the largest in the country - inequalities exist within the district as well as compared with the country as a whole.

The estimated prevalence of overweight and obese adults in Bradford is 67.7% - above the national average of 63.8%. Around 25.8% of these adults are obese, 1.6% above the national average. Just under a quarter (24.3%) of the population of Bradford district eat a healthy diet, whilst nearly half (49.4%) of adults are physically active, achieving 150 minutes of activity per week.

Obesity prevalence is also associated with ethnicity. The white British population has a lower prevalence of obesity than other ethnic groups. Black Minority Ethnic (BME) groups have higher levels of deprivation and national studies have shown that Pakistani boys and girls are up to 50 per cent more likely to be overweight than the general population.

The economic implications of this situation are substantial: across the UK NHS costs attributable to overweight and obesity are projected to double to £10 billion per year by 2050, equating to roughly £80 million for Bradford district. The wider costs to society and business are estimated to reach £49.9 billion per year, which would equate to roughly £400 million for Bradford and Airedale.

ABL is working to transform the way that community healthcare work by supporting people to be ‘active participants’ in the healthcare system and work to create a culture where people think and talk proactively about their health. People can be referred through their GP or can self-refer.

A variety of weight management schemes are commissioned by Bradford Council and delivered by ABL Health in partnership with other community- focused bodies including the Thornbury Centre and HALE (Healthy Action Location Engagement).

The sessions are carried out in community centres, medical centres and Bradford College.

Active promotional campaigns are also run across the district, engaging with GPs, schools, workplaces and community outlets.

Gemma, whose children are aged seven and three, has carried on with her exercises “I do press-ups, sit-ups and star jumps every night. At the beginning I made myself do it, but it has now become routine rather than a chore.”

Khalil Ahmed, ABL Lifestyle Coach, comments: “Gemma has done really well on our programme and I’d encourage anyone else who thinks they could benefit from our support to get in touch. Our sessions can make a real difference by showing you that small changes to how you eat and exercise can make a huge change to your life.”

Practical dietary information and education is also provided to enable people to maintain any changes.

Says Kate Anderson, ABL’s Head of Service Development: “There’s absolutely no doubt as to the importance of tackling the ongoing epidemic of obesity which continues to blight our local communities and have a significant economic impact on the NHS.

“Through our dedicated team of GPs, nutritionists, exercise specialists and lifestyle coaches, we promote behaviour change to encourage healthier eating habits and increase physical activity to facilitate weight loss and improve overall health and wellbeing.”

“By providing practical dietary information and education to support making lifelong changes, we are helping to prevent the onset of future serious health condition and reduce the costs to the NHS by empowering people to lead healthier lives.”

Alison Moore, senior manager with Bradford Council’s department of public health, says: “This free service provides valuable help, support and guidance for people to make the small changes needed to live a healthy lifestyle and I'd encourage as many people as possible to sign up. Obesity is a significant issue in Bradford and the Council has commissioned this service to help people lose weight and get healthier."

* T: 01274 299 022; E: or Text HEALTH to 60777