Guest piece: Alex Hamilton

alexI’m Alex, a PhD student at the University of Oxford, studying the effect of sports programmes on the mental health of adolescents in post-conflict countries. This summer, I have been volunteering as a Physical Activity Summer Intern. I have been reviewing future options for how Macmillan can support their behaviour change pathway with telephone and digital technology. It’s been a refreshing change to my usual topic of study, and I’ve had a great opportunity to learn what it’s like to work in a large, charitable organisation.

Macmillan has an excellent team spirit and the office buzzes with industry. People are aware that their efforts directly contribute to improving the lives of people living with cancer, and this feeds into the work ethic. To be part of such an organisation, even for a short time, has been a valuable experience for me. I’ve particularly enjoyed visiting some of the current Sport England funded sites; it is great to see the local variations on the Macmillan PA behaviour change model.

Now it is time for me to head back to Oxford, escape bustling London and begin the dreaded write up of my PhD thesis. There are many long days in libraries ahead. I’ll continue to be in touch with Macmillan and follow their progress in the future. Many thanks to the PA team for being so welcoming and supportive over the last few months!

Walking Football

All across the UK, new walking and ‘Get Back Into’ sports are being set up, with the
idea of getting older or less physically able individuals together to enjoy competitive team sports, without the high impact or strenuous level of activity that standard versions of the same games require. These sports act as a gentle re-introduction to the sport and the majority have have the same rules as standard versions.

Walking Football is proving extremely popular activity for people affected by cancer. The benefits of these gentle forms of sport have seen increased positive health results, weight loss, positive rehabilitation progress and the opening up of social networks for the participants.This simple but ingenious, slow-paced adaptation of the traditional game is designed to help older men achieve an active lifestyle. It’s also a fantastic platform for those who have stopped playing due to injuries, illness, lack of confidence or perhaps limited opportunities to return to the game.

MoveMore Active Luton have created a video of their Walking Football participants which can be seen here. The team will be travelling to Manchester this month to take part in a walking football tournament. New sessions for PABC have also been set up in Berkshire, Dorset, Selby and Tottenham.

If you are interested in setting up Walking Football take a look at this toolkit which provides information on the rules and how to run your own session.

For further information on walking sports please contact physicalactivity@macmillan.org.uk

Move More Aberdeen Hits 100!

move more aberdeen

Move More Aberdeen hit the significant milestone of 100 referrals this September, roughly 9-months after the doors opened to people affected by cancer.  There has been fantastic support locally from NHS health professionals, patient groups, CLAN Cancer Support and Maggies support centres and others. Approximately 70% of these 100 referrals came from health professionals and 30% from self-referrals.

Those who have attended Move More Aberdeen activity groups have gained real benefits such as improved fitness, a speedier return to work, greater confidence and an improved ability to cope with the side-effects of treatment, (both physical and emotional), and people affected by cancer continuing with long-term independent physical activity.

Move More Aberdeen is still in its infancy, and these referrals represent the first shoots of growth for the programme – plenty of feeding, nurturing and pruning needs to be done! (Yes, a garden group as part of the Move More Aberdeen programme will be starting soon!) With continued hard work and support from health care professionals and other partners we hope that Move More Aberdeen will become well rooted and established, growing in strength and capacity to help more people affected by cancer to ‘Get Active and Feel Good’.

Using sport as a tool to gain back control of your life

Running and cycling are proving to be a popular activity for people affected by cancer within our physical activity project sites. Whether it is going on a gentle walk on a Sunday or competing in marathon, physical activity is a fantastic tool to gain back control of people’s lives affected by cancer. Macmillan wants to ensure that everyone, no matter their age, background, geography, stage of their cancer journey is supported to become and stay active. We are in partnership with five National Governing Bodies of Sport ensuring the support they offer is appropriate and accessible for people living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis. This includes sports such as dance, golf, cycling, walking, badminton which all act as a gentle re-introduction to the sport and have lots of positive health results such as weight loss.

Nottingham Tri 2Neill Timmins from Milton Keynes has run two marathons, walked two of the Yorkshire three peaks, completed numerous 5K parkruns and done a sprint triathlon.  Little did he know he was completing these challenges with stage 4 tonsil cancer.

Once diagnosed Neill underwent major surgery followed by 6 weeks of radiotherapy supplemented by chemotherapy. He approached his cancer journey like training for a marathon, by pushing through the pain and remaining positive throughout. He has a tremendous support network including his wife and two sons and a fantastic job which has allowed him to return to work gradually following the end of his treatment.
Neil strongly believes that a healthy lifestyle has helped him recover and gain back control over his life,

“You have to get your head into the right space. Being reasonably fit and undertaking exercise I truly believe has helped me get to where I am now quicker and get back control over my life. This is important. By necessity you have to give others control during parts of treatment. If you want to get back control then you have to put some work in and frankly take some pain”.

Neill is currently in the middle of the triathlon season and plans to compete in a Brownlee Triathlon at the end of the month having already completed a sprint triathlon and two at Olympic distances. He also regularly does parkruns, yoga and cycles to work each day. On top of that he recently completed a Personal Training Diploma. He also altered his diet as his taste buds changed alongside treatment.

“I am truly grateful to all the people who have helped me get to where I am and giving me more life. Just saying thank you seems wholly inadequate”

For further information on sporting opportunities for people affected by cancer please contact physicalactivity@macmillan.org.uk.