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Better Gets Belfast Active with Free Fitness Tests and Memberships

A programme of free fitness assessments and gym memberships has launched at Better leisure centres across Belfast in a bid to get the city moving.

The initiative entitles members of the public to a fitness test and score, personalised workout plan and free month-long membership to be used across the 14 Better leisure centres in the city.

A state-of-the-art concept in fitness management, FitQuest provides an easy-to-understand measure of key metrics such as BMI (Body Mass Index), hydration levels and muscle percentage which will be mailed directly to the participant’s private inbox.

Individuals are encouraged to visit one of the four FitQuest kiosks at Andersonstown, Lisnasharragh, Better Gym Belfast and Olympia Leisure Centres for the confidential assessment.

Whether the recommendations be weight loss, muscle strength or cardiovascular fitness, a team of professional fitness instructors will provide a tailored workout plan and free four-week membership to allow them to build on their results.

Participants can then return for a further FitQuest test to track their progress and kickstart their journey to a healthier, more active lifestyle.

GLL, which runs the centres, hopes the initiative will empower the people of Belfast to improve their health and happiness through physical activity. A charitable social enterprise that exists to promote better health, it will welcome 500 individuals via the limited scheme. The first 100 places will be reserved for health service staff to encourage a focus on personal physical and mental health.

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl visited Better Gym Belfast to take the inaugural fitness test. The £15,000 initiative is supported by Belfast City Council through the Leisure Transformation Programme.

Speaking following her FitQuest challenge at Better Gym Belfast, Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl said:

“Improving the health and wellbeing of our citizens lies at the heart of Belfast City Council’s £105m Leisure Transformation Programme. With 14 leisure centres across the city, including brand new state-of-the-art gyms and swimming pools at Lisnasharragh and Andersonstown, Belfast is not without the resources or capacity to boost public health through physical activity.”

“While we envisage a city where people are active and committed to living a healthy lifestyle, a lot must be done to make this a way of life for everyone, particularly those living on the lowest incomes. The FitQuest initiative is an investment in this vision and I hope that it will help kickstart many people’s journeys towards more active and healthier lifestyles.”

Regional Director of GLL Gareth Kirk said:

“We at Better exist to make communities happier and healthier through the provision of inclusive, accessible and affordable leisure services. As a charitable social enterprise, we are thrilled to be offering free fitness assessments and citywide memberships as local people continue to battle the physical and emotional hangover of the global pandemic. There are no limits to the benefits of living an active lifestyle and we look forward to seeing hundreds of individuals come through our doors and begin their journey to a better lifestyle.”

Visit www.better.org.uk/get-fitter-belfast to sign up for the Belfast fitness challenge.

Health & Beauty

Nursing and Midwifery ‘Leaders of the Future’

Health Minister Robin Swann has said nurses and midwives have a massive opportunity to influence and contribute to the successful Transformation of Health and Social Care Services.

He was speaking at a presentation ceremony for 30 young nurses and midwives graduating from Northern Ireland’s Nightingale Challenge Global Leadership Development Programme (GLDP).

The GLDP is a bespoke leadership programme commissioned by Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle.

It was developed for 30 Northern Ireland nurses and midwives, across all Trusts, under the age of 35 who have a passionate interest in improving health locally and globally.

Congratulating graduates of the programme, the Minister said: “I know that the programme has helped to develop your global leadership and partnership working skills. It’s fantastic to hear that you have all grasped the opportunity to develop yourselves as senior and strategic leaders of the future.

“The transformation of our health and social care services is essential if we are to provide a modern and fit for purpose model of delivering health and social care. Nurses and midwives are one the largest work force in delivering care and accordingly I believe that they have a massive opportunity to both influence and contribute to the success of the Transformation Agenda.”

The Minister also took the opportunity to praise the outstanding contribution of nurses and midwives in the course of the Covid pandemic.

“This programme is of special significance to me. Back in January 2020, my first action as Health Minister was to officially launch the programme as part of Northern Ireland’s celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

“The participants were some of the first Health and Social Care staff that I was introduced to in my role. Whilst we were all aware at that time that they would face significant challenges none of us could have predicted just how vast those challenges would be.”

The Minister continued: “Since then I have been privileged to witness first-hand just how hard our nursing and midwifery professionals, and their teams, are working. You have adapted and overcome, whilst continuing to provide the best treatment, care and support possible, often in very complex clinical situations and changing circumstances.

“In presenting these medals to acknowledge your completion of the programme I can only once again thank you and all your colleagues across the health service family for your continued professionalism, and dedication.”

Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, also took the opportunity to congratulate graduates on their achievements: “The purpose of the programme was to empower and develop you as the next generation of nurses and midwives, to learn as leaders, practitioners and advocates in health, and in turn allow you to play your part in strengthening nursing and midwifery in Northern Ireland by leading transformational change. You have all achieved this and more.”

Professor McArdle acknowledged that there is a still a significant challenge to rebuild the health service following Covid-19, but shared: “I have great comfort in knowing that the future of nursing and midwifery is in safe and capable hands.”

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Health & Beauty

Swann Outlines Plans to Tackle Smoking Harms

Health Minister Robin Swann has outlined plans that will continue to tackle the harms caused to children and young people by tobacco and second-hand smoking.

The Health Minister laid out his plans to prioritise and progress regulations on smoking in cars when children are present, as well as preventing the sale of nicotine inhaling products to those aged under 18.

Minister Swann said: “The use of tobacco continues to be a primary cause of preventable ill-health and premature death in Northern Ireland. It is vital that we maximise our efforts to reduce smoking prevalence and protect people, particularly children, from the effects of second- hand smoke.”

Legislation is already in place which bans smoking in certain premises, places and vehicles including on public transport and in work vehicles used by more than one person. The proposed new regulations would extend the current smoke-free provisions to private vehicles where children are present, when there is more than one person in the car and the vehicle is enclosed. It is also proposed that failing to prevent smoking in a smoke-free private vehicle will be made an offence.

The Minister said: “Children and young people are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of second hand smoke as they breathe more rapidly and inhale more pollutants per pound of body weight than adults. The Royal College of Physicians has reported that this can lead to increased risk of asthma, lower respiratory infections, middle ear disease, bronchitis, bacterial meningitis and sudden infant death syndrome, as well as reduced respiratory function.

“These planned regulations will play an important role in protecting children from the harms of nicotine addiction and tobacco use. I anticipate that, subject to Assembly approval, these regulations will be operational early next year.”

The Minister has also laid out his plans to prevent the sale of nicotine inhaling products, such as e-cigarettes, to anyone aged under 18, under the Health Miscellaneous Provisions Act (NI) 2016. It will also be an offence to purchase such products on behalf of a child (a proxy purchasing offence). These offences mirror current offences relating to tobacco sales.

Minister Swann said: “Nicotine is highly addictive and, according to the World Health Organisation, exposure to nicotine whilst still in adolescence can lead to long-term consequences for brain development. In addition to the potential long-term health implications of e-cigarette use by teenagers, there are also concerns that they may act as a gateway into smoking.

“Youth smoking prevalence in Northern Ireland has been steadily decreasing in recent years, and I do not wish to see this trend reversed because young people, who may not have been induced initially to smoke tobacco, instead become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes.”

In conclusion, the Minister confirmed that the current Tobacco Control Strategy is to be extended.

“There have been a number of significant developments in the area of tobacco and nicotine control since the current strategy was introduced. As a result, a mid-term review was undertaken and work is ongoing to implement review recommendations. It is important that we allow sufficient time for the recommendations to be implemented. Therefore the current strategy will be extended for a further period of time. This will allow for actions to be taken forward that address the inequalities evident in tobacco use and the associated health outcomes.”

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