Mrs Hedley – Hemel Pilates class  
Love to Dance class
Pilates is a form of exercise that has become extremely popular over the last decade, in a large part because it’s adaptable to various levels of fitness. Pilates also offers a gentle, no-impact, complete body workout that you can easily do at home. It combines stretching and strengthening exercises through controlled and precise motions with the goal of toning the entire body.

All of those factors make Pilates a good type of exercise for people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). Studies have shown that exercise can help lessen symptoms of CFS and help restore independence and easy daily living.

Mrs Hedley has suffered from CFS for 11 years. Having had a successful, but highly pressurised sale role working for a leading retailer, Mrs Hedley believes has been the root cause of her problems.

Turning up to Bennetts End Community Centre on a cold winter’s morning to do an hour of pilates does not sound appealing to most people, let alone when you have CFS to deal with.

However, Mrs Hedley explains her reasons “Pilates on a Thursday with Sarah, who is great, really helps me to think more positively and as a result has improved my confidence to do more and cope with my condition. I feel more in tune with my body and can read the signs when I feel the chronic fatigue setting in. I go most weeks to the class, but it is hard beforehand as many times I really don’t feel like it, but sometimes I just have to force myself. I like the class because you get close supervision and attention, not like a large gym or sports centre. I used to do pilates before getting ill, but was then too frightened to try after being diagnosed. But it’s ok now as I have learnt to pace myself and really like the fact that Sarah helps me to do this and is always aware of how I am coping”.

Mrs Saffery – Whitehill Love to Dance Class  
I have always loved dancing and had been attending lessons with my husband until his diagnosis of terminal cancer at the end of 2007. I had also undergone a hip replacement in between supporting him through various treatments and was feeling far from my best.

In 2010, I encouraged a friend to try my local Love to Dance class.From the moment we started I loved it. I didn’t need a partner, my body was getting moved in ways it hadn’t moved for a long time and mentally I was being stimulated so that I felt rejuvenated. The group was friendly including the teacher who treated us all like friends.

As well as exercise I have gained a social group whose support over the last years has been a life saver. We go out for regular and after class go for coffee. In the classes there is always someone ready to listen or take your mind off your own troubles.

The classes really help me to leave any thoughts of outside life in the background because learning the choreography is demanding and increases your power of concentration and sense of achievement when you get a routine spot on! The variety of dances I have learned has been enormous from African to Italian, Indian to stage shows, ballroom to Latin, Old Thyme to Music Hall and so the list goes on.

As time passed by and my husband’s condition worsened, he developed mental and physical problems having lost the use of his legs. I was nursing him at home full time with the help of carers and my daughters. He did not want to know what his prognosis was but I did. It was particularly at this time that I really came to recognise the tremendous value of Love to Dance.

My Thursday mornings had become my escape to a world where I could lose myself, distress in dancing and find comfort in the companionship of people of my own age group or older, some of whom had been where I was. It was an absolute Godsend!My husband sadly died and I had to learn to exist by myself after 31 years of marriage. Members of the group were there for me with words of comfort, support and advice when I needed it. I could focus on dance steps instead of worries and share laughter instead of pain and tears.

Since that time Love to Dance has helped me over and over again lifting my depression, stimulating my brain and moving my arthritic joints and stiff muscles. I have just returned to dancing after a 2 year absence and a very serious illness when my hip replacement operation went seriously wrong. Throughout this time people from Love to Dance kept in touch. I was very weak after my illness so I joined an extra class and have now discovered the same network of support, fun and laughter with the members at Letchworth.

I now feel back to my best. My mental and physical health have improved, I was able to do a 4mile walk over uneven surface in the Lake District this Christmas Holiday which was amazing as 6 months before I was unable to walk to the end of the street without having to rest.

Love to Dance really has helped me on my journey to a full and healthy recovery. I have now become a Community Champion for the programme in my local area and would encourage as many people to come along and try it to experience the benefits for themselves.

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