Green prescription works wonders
Only a year ago Anthony Carroll found it hard to get out of bed. He felt that way for days at a time.
A stroke in 2011 had left him with mobility problems on his left side.
He was unemployed, almost 20 kilograms heavier than he is now, was on the brink of developing type 2 diabetes and suffering from severe depression.
The 55-year-old Western Springs man had no motivation to change his life.
But a routine visit to the doctor was the wakeup call he needed.
"My GP sat me down and said ‘you really have to do something about your health - if you keep going this way, in five years' time you won't be here'. It was very hard to hear.
"It's a sense of survival. You have to make a decision to either fade away or get up and get going."
The doctor referred Mr Carroll to Sport Auckland's Green Prescription initiative in August 2012 and he has become a self-confessed gym junkie, losing 17kg in that time.
He plans to exercise every day over the holidays except for Christmas Day - only because the gym isn't open.
Mr Carroll says he used to think the John Kirwan advertisements talking about the benefits of exercise for depression were promoting a "fairytale".
"In actual fact, exercise does help.
"It's changed my life. Depression is really debilitating. You just live under a dark cloud where normal day-to-day occasions are hard work.
"Going to the gym has given me the ability to face my challenges with a more positive attitude. The problems don't go away but your mechanisms to cope are improved."
Mr Carroll goes to the Mt Albert YMCA six days a week to work out and even got a part-time job after a conversation with another gym member.
He says the positive, friendly atmosphere at the gym makes it easy to keep going.
"I was reluctant and actually really scared about going at first but I've found the whole experience so positive."
He would encourage anyone struggling with their weight to get involved in Green Prescription.
"It wasn't just handed to me on a plate. It's a matter of being committed.
"If I hadn't gone with Green Prescription I would have gone for about two months and thought that I could cope on my own and just stopped. "
The initiative began in 1998 and has gone from strength to strength, Green Prescription promotions adviser Michael McCormack says.
It now reaches more than 7000 people across Auckland and co-ordinators are looking to extend it in coming years.
"It's really rewarding for us to see the amount of change that we can actually inspire in people. By providing them with some very basic information people can change their lives.
"The main thing is that what we're doing is actually working."