5 minutes with… a Volunteer Exercise Buddy

10 Jun 2016 Emily Cope

Our volunteer exercise buddies help and encourage people to get fit and also offer practical advice about using gym equipment or filling out exercise log books.

Angela has been a volunteer exercise buddy at Brunel Fitness Centre in Speedwell for the past six months, helping people suffering from lung conditions. Angela herself was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) two years ago and so has a very good understanding of the condition.

“When I meet people who are suffering from lung conditions I feel like I understand their frustrations and can offer some first-hand advice.”

She is an inspiration to others as, through her first-hand experience, she is able to explain how exercise can improve the quality of life for those suffering with long-term or incurable lung conditions.

First-hand advice
Angela explains, ‘When I was first diagnosed, I felt very lonely and isolated. I felt that my whole life had changed for the worse and that nobody else really understood. I encourage others to give up smoking and how taking their medication is really important. I’m a general mentor to others and this gives me a sense of achievement.’

She adds, ‘I find the role really rewarding, particularly when I receive positive feedback. When I meet people who are suffering from lung conditions I feel like I understand their frustrations and can offer some first-hand advice. People have often told me that it’s really helpful to talk to someone who understands their illness and who they can relate to.’

Exercising with COPD
Lung diseases are often misunderstood. For example, while COPD isn’t curable, it is treatable; medication and exercising with COPD can change the way you feel, breathe and function and you can also prevent further damage to the lungs.  Angela says, ‘I was referred to do a Pulmonary Rehabilitation course by my GP and I saw straight away that exercise makes a huge difference to my condition. As I felt so much fitter and more positive I was asked if I would like to become an exercise buddy for others.’

People often assume that only smokers and old people get COPD and while Angela has helped all sorts of people, including a 93 year old man who was referred to her, she explains that, ‘Although COPD is more common in older people who have smoked for many years it can be diagnosed in people as young as 30 or 40.’

Volunteering can make a huge difference to people’s lives and can be a very rewarding experience too. The Bristol Community Health volunteer programme offers a range of different roles. To find out more, contact Greg Juckes greg.juckes@briscomhealth.nhs.uk  or click here to find out more about our volunteering opportunities