Real Stories

In his own words…

Mike’s story…

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Since joining Active Herts in May 2016, Hannah Marsh and the programme has helped me immensely in my weight loss journey. I had not long moved to the area from London; away from friends and feeling down as well as being out of shape, weighing close to 17st. While sat in the doctors I saw a poster of an overweight man playing football and looking worn out; two situations I knew well – it was like looking in a mirror! It was promoting a healthy way to live, as well as a chance to meet local people. So I arranged to meet with no expectations, and thinking if I get to play football it’s a bonus.

After our first meeting the Get Active Specialist made me feel relaxed to talk about myself and be honest. I was 16st 10 and I remember her first bit of advice regarding my eating habits made me change the way I see snack food.

If I was bored at work I would pop to the canteen for a sugar fix which consisted of sweets, chocolates and crisps. Hannah suggested having clementine’s on my desk was the first step. She then got me membership at my local gym, which I have never been a fan of as I always felt out of place and wandering around not really working out. My brother in law invited me to play in his 5-a-side team on a Wednesday night, but a few weeks later I hurt my knee.

At my next catch up with Hannah, and sensing I was using this as an excuse to not do as much, which I was most probably doing, she informed me of a local “Fella’s Fitness” men’s exercise session starting up on a Wednesday. This was where other men she was helping go to get fit, and suggested that I go while not playing football. Here I came out of my shell more and could then take what I was doing there back to the gym which made me more confident – so much so that I quit the football to attend this instead. While it was tough at the start I found myself getting more and more into it and looked forward to going to a gym. I then found a local group of lads that play football at a school 2mins from my house and was playing there on a Friday. I was starting to get a routine of fitness I’ve not had since PE lessons at school!

In January 2017 I was a little down with the post-Christmas blues, missing my friends and again while at the doctors I saw Hannah and popped in to say hello. 10mins later I was sobbing while confessing how down I was and again it came back to my weight. While I was feeling better, I wasn’t looking it. I mentioned how my wife had started Slimming World and was wondering whether to also try it. Hannah urged me to go. So I started eating what my wife ate, cutting out more of the wrong snacks and eating better, and within 6wks I had lost a stone and I was on a roll!

The Wednesday night class was good but I then found myself wanting to push myself more, and then in June 2017 I found a local boot camp group that workout outdoors. I was now eating better, losing weight and working out 3 times a week. Again at another chance meeting with Hannah she informed me of an afternoon circuit group she was running that was starting that day! The old me would have made up an excuse, but here I was more than happy to join in if not to support Hannah – but it was also another chance to work out! I have been going virtually every Friday since and love the different mix of work outs she comes up with, including Pilates!

Now in September 2018 I weigh 13st 10, I completed a 5km ‘Muddy Mayhem’ mud run in February, and I’m wearing 34inch waist skinny jeans! I go to circuit classes up to 5-6 times a week, still play football and I’m feeling better than ever – all from Active Herts. But none of this could have been possible without the efforts, support and friendship of Hannah. Now whenever I go shopping and see a bag of clementine’s I always think back to that first meeting and that first bit of advice and a little smile creeps.

Don’t let anything hold you back…

Gloria’s Story

Referred by: Dr Hossain, Stanhope Surgery

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I had my initial consultation with Active Herts in March 2016 at my G.P surgery and was very enthused to meet my local Get Active Specialist, Andy. Following seven back surgeries in the past two years I was struggling with everything from my mobility to activities of daily living. I had to have titanium reinforcements fitted the length of my spine and the impact of this overtime had a large impact on my mood and coping strategies. It began to badly affect my health, mentally and physically.

Before finding out about the Active Herts programme my motivation to exercise was not at a high point. I didn’t know where to start, what would be good for my back, or even what opportunities where local to me. After my first appointment, I felt very enthused by the information Andy provided and was looking forward to turning over a new leaf and starting the Active Herts – introduction to exercise classes.

Sometimes my back pain would make me feel reluctant to exercise but starting the sessions at a steady rate and with encouragement from Andy gave me the peace of mind I needed. I realised that improving my health and getting back to where I was is a journey to be traveled and Active Herts is playing a big part in the process.

The sessions I’m attending have been fun, stimulating and challenging and a good place to be. The group dynamic is supportive and fun and everyone says they look forward to attending. Only a couple of months in I have found the programme to be of great benefit and the improvements I have already seen can only get better. I look forward to my next session every week and Active Herts has played a big role in getting me back on track!
Thank you.


Supporting her patients…

A nurses story…

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I am a practice nurse at one of the surgeries Stevenage and I joined Active Herts myself to gain experience which I could pass on to my patients.

This also encouraged my husband to join and increase his activity level. Personally I was finding it difficult to fit in a regular exercise class and has not carried out regular exercise for 2 years. I have found it very worthwhile personally and it has also helped in discussions with patients, neighbours and friends because I take part. Hannah is very encouraging and welcoming and it is a great service.

It really helped me lose weight and control my autism..

Reece’s Story…

Referred by GP

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Reece was referred by his GP to Active Herts, as he is a 17-year-old male who suffers with autism who is currently inactive. Reece was also involved in a car accident and suffers severe back pain as a result, the GP is unsure as to whether his inactivity is psychological or due to back pain.

Using MI Reece engaged in change talk and spoke about  the benefits of being active and described wanting to be generally healthier and he felt that his pain may be reduced by being active. He felt that he may be able to gradually increase the amount of time and intensity of exercise.

From this, he now exercises at least 3x per week both gym and swimming and will make sure his cardio vascular activity is at least 10-minute bouts. He will normally do 2x cardio vascular (bike and treadmill). He has lost 7-8kg in the last 3 – 4 months and continues to eat a 1500 calorie diet to ensure he stays healthy and reaches his goals.

Coping with type II diabetes…

Lorna’s Story…

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Lorna is obese and has type II diabetes, she was referred to Active Herts to help manage these, in a safe, healthy way. Lorna has previously lost 9 stone in weight over a short period of time through a drastic low calorie, liquid diet. This made her unwell and affected both her physical and mental health. As soon as she stated eating solid food again, she put 8 stone back on as her body couldn’t cope with the change. Lorna recognised that she needed to lose the weight in a more sensible way and wanted to start exercising but required support in setting options up.

When Lorna came in for her Active Herts appointment she had begun to think about ways in which she could start exercising, however she needed some help in overcoming the barriers she had that stopped her exercising in the first place, which mainly consisted of time constraints as she works full time and is a single mum to two girls. She set herself a goal of swimming three miles per week, broken down into three swims of a mile each time. At the last check in, Lorna has lost 3.2 stone (20kg) since joining Active Herts in June, and has dropped an impressive 4 dress sizes, going from a size 28 to a size 20. Her attitudes to food, exercise and life have all changed and she now has high levels of motivation to succeed in losing more weight and improving her health further.

Managing her health…

Dawn’s Story

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I’ve got fibromyalgia which means that I get really tired and get a lot of pain and I used to spend a lot of time in bed, but I now get up earlier in the morning, I don’t need so many afternoon naps and I’m able to get out and about in the garden a bit more and occasionally get to my allotment.

In my initial consultation we sat down and we had a nice chat about what my goals were, and I set myself two very basic goals, some people wouldn’t think they’re goals at all, but in the first six weeks to be getting up earlier in the morning and I’ve achieved that. And at the end of the three months to be trying to get to my allotment for once a week, and I’m just about managing that now the weathers better.

You make new friends, you share interests and the social side where you sit and share a cup of tea afterwards is just really nice and you can share your experiences without feeling threatened or under pressure.


Out and about and feeling good!

Jamie’s Story

Referred by: Stevenage Mind Wellbeing Centre

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Jamie suffers with anxiety and depression. He is agoraphobic and did not like leaving his house or being in social situations, often only leaving his house to attend his counselling group. Through the support of Active Herts, Jamie’s confidence has improved and he has found an interest in physical activity and the benefits it can bring, not just mentally but physically as well.

At his first appointment Jamie was very nervous but felt he had to do something to stop his mental health getting worse. Despite his motivation to be more active, his anxiety prevented him plus he was unsure of what opportunities were available locally. After meeting Jamie for the first time it was clear he needed to find something that was right for his circumstances, an activity that would help to build up his confidence levels slowly.

Throughout the time spent with his local Get Active Specialist, he created a personal Get Active plan that involved Jamie’s taking his dog for a walk, with a gradual increase in the duration of the walk to build up his fitness levels. Since starting Jamie has received ongoing support from Active Herts to help maintain his motivation, and at his 3 month review, explained that he is now walking his dog for an hour, four times a week. He is also socialising with other dog walkers once out, as the dogs are a common interest and a good conversation starter.

The effect on Jamie’s health is obvious, he has overcome some of his barriers, is feeling better within himself and has even said that his “body confidence has sky-rocketed.” His outlook has improved, but it’s only the start. These changes have helped Jamie to realise the importance of maintaining a healthier lifestyle as he continues to work hard towards his goal of getting out to walk the dog twice a day. Jamie feels this new Get Active plan brings structure to his day has helped make getting up in the mornings easier. His new lifestyle has improved his sleep pattern which he has been struggling with for some time due to his mental health conditions.

Shaping up with walking football…

Dharmendra’s Story

Referred by: Dr Zemmel, GP at Attenborough Surgery

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Dharmendra has type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure plus he was carrying excess weight, which increased his cardiovascular risk factors meaning he was more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. Fortunately, his medical conditions could be managed and improved by making small changes to his lifestyle.

At the point he was referred to Active Herts by his GP, Dharmendra was not exercising and didn’t know where to begin. His Get Active Specialist based at his doctors surgery, worked with him to address the things that were holding him back. No time, a busy job, early starts, late finishes and family responsibilities were all getting in the way. His Specialist worked with him to overcome some of this barriers, looking at his spare time and what he had available and when. Wednesday night’s worked and a local programme called Shape Up ran on the same night.

After attending Shape Up for twelve weeks Dharmendra has achieved a lot of success, losing 6.5kg of weight, 5% of his overall body weight, lost 12cm round his waist, reduced his body fat and has improved his eating habits. Dharmendra explains his progress;

“The free support offered by my Get Active Specialist has been really important, without attending my first appointment my limited knowledge of what to do and what was on offer would of held me back. The advice, guidance and information given was top class. Without Active Herts and Shape Up my life would still be the same. I have learnt a lot, mainly that exercise can be sociable, as I have made good friends along the way. To keep on top my eating habits I now go shopping with my wife and am choosing the foods which I know are good for me. I am still exercising regularly and going for half hour walk each day.  I am really motivated by what I have achieved so far and know how to keep it going”.

Active Herts has changed my life!

Robert’s Story

Referred by: His GP

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Robert is in his late 50’s and overweight, he’s an insulin dependent diabetic and also takes medication for raised blood pressure and high cholesterol. Bob noticed his health was staring to go downhill after a routine medical discovered he was diabetic. The doctor told Robert that he was very unfit and needed to make some lifestyle changes so he could manage his condition better.

Roberts GP referred him onto the Active Herts programme and a consultation was made to see the Get Active Specialist at his surgery. After a 45 minute consultation the specialist managed to signpost a variety of low impact exercise sessions which were tailored for his own ability.

Robert has been in the programme now for the last 3 years and has successfully managed to reduce his weight, improve his cardiovascular fitness and take a lower dosage of his cholesterol medication.

Roberts’s words

“With Active Herts you are made to feel equal and part of the team, it does not seem to matter if you are 40, 50, 60 or even 80, you might be there because you have a serious health problem or you could be overweight but for whatever reason you are there trying to improve your own health through a variety of fun exercises. Everyone including myself come away from the sessions feeling better and not belittled or intimidated”.

“If I can be enthusiastic after 40 years of no exercise than anyone can. I can’t thank Active Herts and the team enough for their continued support and encouragement, well done to all of them”.

Taking the right steps with walking football…

Cem’s Story

Referred by: His GP

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Cem found out about the programme through a retired friend who had already been involved in the “Active Herts Programme”. Cem was a little sceptical as I he had only just turned 50 years of age and wondered if he would be joining a programme for retired people.   Cem had always led a fit and active lifestyle, going to the gym 4 days a week. Unfortunately in January 2016, out of the blue he has an arrhythmia event (a heart rate way above the norm). It transpired that he had suffered a Ventricular Tachycardia (VT).

Unfortunately, these events were life changing for Cem, in the autumn of 2016 he no longer had the confidence to re-join his gym as there were a number of restrictions of what he could do in the gym. Cem met the “Get Active” specialist in October 2016, who outlined the purpose of the programme and what was available; i.e. swimming; circuits and walking football to name but a few activities. Having played football up to his University days, he decided to try out the “Walking Football” session on a Tuesday night at the Laura Trott Leisure Centre, in Cheshunt. Cem thoroughly enjoyed his first hour long session the following week, albeit it was difficult to not jog or run! His scepticism was soon put to bed as it soon became apparent that it was not a weekly event for OAP’s to get some exercise.

The sessions are run fantastically well by the coach, who makes it enjoyable and fun for all of us. I have been attending weekly since that first chilly autumn night back in 2016. Walking Football has become intrinsically embedded into my life now. So much so that some of the regulars made noises over the ensuing weeks to form a Walking Football team to play friendlies and down the line perhaps join a mini – league in Hertfordshire and enter competitions.

Cem’s words

“Through the Active Herts Programme via Walking Football, it has helped me to regain my confidence in taking part in sport again, most certainly improved my fitness levels and health, enabled me to make new friends and discovered that there are others out there with various health related issues who have joined the programme for the same reasons as me and in essence, we have become a “Band of Brothers and Sisters”.”

“I cannot recommend the Active Herts Programme highly enough, it is run professionally by people who care and it is a fantastic vehicle to improve your health and fitness, whilst at the same time making new friends.”

Thank you and may it continue.

Thank you Active Herts for helping me get my life back on track!

Breda’s Story

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Breda joined Active Herts back in January 2017 as she was looking for suitable exercise sessions which were tailored for her own ability. She found out about the programme whilst taking part on a health walk in the Borough.

Breda suffered from depression and fibromyalgia, and these medical conditions made it extremely difficult for her to even begin to think about exercise due to the chronic muscle pain, spasms and tiredness.

She was feeling very down before joining Active Herts. She was torn between going to the GP to get medication which she’d done on numerous occasions throughout her life,  or trying to get fit and lose some weight by contacting the local Get Active Specialist.

Breda found the confidence to contact the local Get Active Specialist and has never looked back since. Her emotional and physical well-being has greatly improved since joining the programme. She’s more active now, made new friends and as a result even joined the local gym.

Breda’s words

“All of the instructors and participants support and help each other throughout the exercise sessions. We are all there for the same reason that is to improve our wellbeing be it physical or mental. In my personal opinion I have reduced a cost to the NHS by visiting my GP less. I have found a “new me” It has provided me with a better insight of myself and others. Another benefit is that the sessions are very cost effective. Thank you Active Herts for helping me get my life back on track!”

Loosening up…

Rose’s Story

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Rose was getting concerned with her physical and mental health as she was living in isolation and didn’t feel she could exercise like she did in her younger years.

Rose had tried exercise before having a membership at the gym but unfortunately she found this to be very isolating and unhelpful. She never felt she could ask for help as it became difficult to find anyone to help close by, as there were so many people attending the gym.

Rose heard about the Active Herts programme and since joining she’s benefited for a number of reasons. Her mental health has improved along with her physical health, she can now go upstairs without feeling pain in her knees and buttocks. She’s improved her all round strength and now feels more able to manage exercise without getting fatigued and breathless too quickly. Rose’s blood pressure has dropped from 130 to 124 and her cholesterol also dropped from 7 to 6.3.

Rose’s Words

“I hated exercise when I first started I couldn’t even roll my shoulders for a warm up without whincing, my joints were so stiff. Now I love feeling fitter, stronger and socially included knowing the trainers have got my back. Since joining Active Herts I have lost 2 inches off my waist and two inches off my hips.

Thank you Active Herts you have made a positive difference to my body and my life.”

Active Herts Swim Program at John Warner

It was around June 2022 and although we had past the worst days of the lockdowns from the pandemic, it had certainly left it’s toll.

To exacerbate the situation and as a consequence of an irregular heartbeat, I suffered 2 strokes in 2019 and 2020 and whilst I made a pretty good recovery from the first, the second had much more of an impact in particular from a mental health perspective. 

Following an ablation to sort out the “electrical issue” with the heart, I made a few attempts to get back into a regular exercise regime, but to no avail…..Feeling down in the dumps and finding any excuse not to exercise didn’t exactly help.

At another visit to the GP in 2022;  that’s where Active Herts come in, I was asked if I would like try and participate in a weekly group swim session on Wednesdays at John Warner’s Leisure Centre. 

Certainly seemed like a good idea to rekindle some incentive to get me exercising and following a chat with Andrew Rix (Project Lead), I turned up to the first session being run by Tom Delaney and duly did a few lengths. No pressure at all, other than a bit of encouragement to get started.

Not the most sociable member of the group for sure, sorry colleagues!….but week after week, I turned up, did my lengths and began to feel a bit better. What it really has done is to get me into a routine and gave me incentive to do a second swim at the weekend….and then another…..

So at the start of this year, I thought why not and signed up for the National Swimathon event which involves swimming 5km (or rather 200 lengths of a 25m pool) to raise money for Cancer Research and Marie Curie.

I’m now swimming 4-5 times and planning to cover the distance in a little over 2 hours on 27 April. Hopefully a good cause and a good outcome, particularly considering where I was a couple of years ago.

I can’t thank Active Herts enough for giving me the opportunity to join the program and quite honestly,  I don’t think I’d be doing the Swimathon without that chance.

Surely there must be a cost benefit to getting people more active (that’s the accountant in me speaking), but moreover the wider benefits to health as a whole.

A genuine thank you Active Herts for getting me going again.


Chris Jackson 

April 2024