Doctors set to prescribe aerobic classes Patients to be sent to get-fit classes

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The Independent Online

The hypochondriac - scourge of doctor's waiting rooms everywhere - might soon be prescribed advanced aerobics instead of antibiotics, following the launch of a scheme yesterday in which fitness programmes will be available on prescription.

The Wright Foundation Medical Referral Programme aims to bring together doctors and fitness experts to provide people with medically prescribed fitness programmes at their local leisure centres.

Patients with "prescriptions" will be able to use fitness facilities under supervision by specially trained fitness experts and at half the normal price.

"The medical professional will be putting in a prescription, as we call it, which contains patient details that the referral consultant has to take into consideration," said Murdo Wallace, chairman and founder of the Wright Foundation, which masterminded the scheme. "We set it up because we realised that doctors were hesitant to send people on fitness programmes because they didn't have a medical basis."

More than 100 leisure centres across the country have already applied to have staff trained as "referral programme consultants". By the time the courses begin next April, the foundation hopes 400 leisure centres will take part, following the success of a pilot scheme in Bournemouth.

"The pilot scheme began two years ago and there are currently 534 people referred there. It is now funded by the Dorset Health Commission who completely endorse it," Mr Wallace said.

Mr Wallace said that although paying for people to attend fitness classes might appear expensive in the short term, "Patients become less dependent on expensive medication so they're cutting down on the drugs bill," he said. He added that it could help relieve ailments from depression to cardiovascular problems.