Prescribing exercise the best medicine

CHANGED MAN: Shon Saphire says exercising and staying fit has helped him out of depression.
CHANGED MAN: Shon Saphire says exercising and staying fit has helped him out of depression.

Two years ago Shon Saphire dropped out of university, in poor health and depressed.

The 52-year-old Mt Eden man needed to focus on his personal wellbeing and with help from the Green Prescription programme he was able to do just that.

"I'd been suffering from depression for a number of years, and I was in bad shape mentally and physically," Saphire says.

In 2012, after an injury Saphire had to drop out of the second year of his diploma of sports exercise and nutrition.

"The injury sent me on a downward spiral because I had to leave the course at that point and I had been building up to it for a number of years," he says.

"Green Prescription got me prepared to go back to uni and finish my second year.

"I knew if I didn't I would just go all the way back down and there would be no coming back.

The Green Prescription programme is a support service designed to get people started with physical activity.

Patients are referred by a health professional to the programme which is facilitated by Sport Auckland.

Green Prescription promotions adviser Michael McCormack says the goal is early intervention so people can get fit and healthy before more serious complications, such as diabetes.

"The most important thing they get from Green Prescription is the confidence to start exercising and getting a framework that works for them," McCormack says.

"We hope to make the physical activity a long-term lifestyle change, not just doing the gym for three weeks then saying that's it."

Saphire is a regular at the Mt Albert YMCA gym, which is a service promoted to the people in the Green Prescription programme.

Fitness and business manager Jonathan Peddie says the partnership with Green Prescription is natural because both parties have a similar goal.

The YMCA offers discounts to people on the programme and helps them with a fitness framework.

After graduating from the programme Saphire still exercises.

"I started off at the gym once a week, then twice a week, then I gradually built up to three to four times a week.

"Both my mental and physical health is a lot better and that has allowed me to start pursuing my goals again."

Saphire is now in the final stages of his diploma. In between studying fulltime and working out he works with young adults recovering from mental health and addiction.

"I get them out into the environment, the beaches, parks, mountains and I get them moving.

"It's all about exercise activity but using the environment.

"It's a challenge for them and for me too, and that's why I do it."

Ask your GP if a Green Prescription is right for you, or go to health.govt. nz and search Green Prescription.

East And Bays Courier