Physical Activity Referral Scheme helps Gary to become more involved in exercise and try anything once

Updated: 6 July 2017

In January, Gary Smith, aged 36, from Rickmansworth was encouraged by his family to join the Physical Activity Referral Scheme (PARS) run by William Penn Leisure Centre.

In January, Gary Smith, aged 36, from Rickmansworth was encouraged by his family to join the Physical Activity Referral Scheme (PARS) run by William Penn Leisure Centre and Three Rivers District Council.

Gary has suffered from a rare condition called Autosomal recessive spastic ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay (known as ARSACS), a condition that affects muscle movement. People with ARSACS typically have abnormal tensing of the muscles, difficulty coordinating movements, muscle wasting, involuntary eye movements and speech difficulties. Other problems can include deformities of the fingers and feet, reduced sensation and weakness in the arms and legs. An unsteady gait is one of the first systems of the condition and usually appears between the ages of 12 – 18 months, as toddlers are learning to walk.

Due to his condition unfortunately Gary was forced to give up his job as a Data Entry Clerk at Heathrow airport and also more recently had to stop driving due to the condition affecting his eyesight.

Keen to make sure he kept as active as possible Gary wanted to join a gym but was unsuccessful at finding a gym buddy. He visited his GP to find out more about the PARS referral scheme and if he met the criteria.

William Penn Leisure Centre have helped a number of customers through the PARS scheme helping them to engage in all levels of fitness.

Gary contacted the centre and attended a consultation meeting in January, with Kelly, a fitness instructor and one of the team at the centre. From the very beginning Kelly was extremely helpful and supportive speaking to Gary about what was available and ideas on how to get active. His induction and following weekly sessions allowed Gary to try out the range of equipment in the gym at the centre and find out what he enjoyed doing and what exercises he could do.
Over the past few months Gary is now able to use most of the equipment in the gym and regularly visits twice a week. To add to the PARS referral scheme Gary also enrolled the services of another member of the team, Des, a personal trainer, who has also helped develop his gym routine further using new equipment including Battle Ropes and Free Weights.

Kelly, Des and the team at the William Penn Leisure Centre have worked really hard with Gary to help push and encourage him to try out new things. Very recently Gary took a swim in the pool, which whilst being very hard work, was also very rewarding and shows that with determination anything is possible.

Gary’s family say ‘Visiting the centre and working with the team in the gym has opened lots of new doors and opportunities for Gary, helping with his health and wellbeing. He is now extremely confident and will try anything once’
Gavin Howard Business Manager “Its great to see the progress Gary has made and the difference exercise has made to his wellbeing. The PARS scheme and the great team at the centre have made his journey a success.’