Gym/swimming on the NHS?

Has anyone had any success with getting gym, studio classes (pilates/yoga), or swimming prescribed on the NHS, as part of “management” of their condition?

I’ve got to see the doctor Friday - nothing directly to do with MS - they stopped my contraceptive pill without warning, because apparently I’m overdue for a review (wrong side of 40, and all that!)

So since they’re forcing me to go anyway, about probably the least of my worries, I thought I might make enquiries about whether they’ve got any schemes for swimming or gym, for patients who could benefit.

Although I’ve vaguely heard of such schemes, I’m not sure what the reality is, so before I make my doctor choke with laughter, and ask: “You expect us to fund what?”, I thought I’d ask if anyone’s had any success along these lines, or if it really would be a frivolous request.

There are aquafit classes and pilates and so on at more than one venue in the area, but it’s expensive, if I have to pay myself (I don’t qualify for JSA, as not actively looking for work, nor ESA/DLA/PIP, as not yet sick enough, and am living on my savings).

Is it worth asking the doc, or will I get laughed out of the surgery? She’s a nice doctor, so I don’t think she’d really laugh, but she might think it’s a very bizarre request, if there’s no substance to my belief it might be possible…



Hi Tina My nurse told me ‘gym on prescription’ was an option when I was having trouble finding a yoga instructor that was prepared to teach me with my MS. I think they are usually short sessions, up to 12 weeks, at least thats the case here, could be different in your area. It might be worth enquiring about, worst that can happen is that she says no. Hope you get a good result though! Laura x

Thanks Laura. Not quite what I had in mind, as I was hoping I might be able to get a pass for the local gym or aqua class, rather than have to attend the hospital for their organised sessions (if any). I don’t drive, and already have problems getting to the hospital, so probably wouldn’t go if it was hosted there.

Thanks for reassuring me I’m not imagining there might be some sort of scheme, though. I didn’t want: “Signs of delusion” added to my already copious notes! I shall feel a bit better about asking, if I know it’s not a completely dumb question.

I’m going to raise the issue of the painful feet again, too (that Physio couldn’t explain). I think she’s going to regret calling me in for a review of the contraceptive pill, as I wouldn’t have gone if not for that, but now that I am, it’ll be with a shopping-list.



Tina Dont know if your in the UK or not but if you are ask your GP about a scheme called PALS and if she can refer you for it. Its a brill scheme that costs either £2.50 pay as you go or £12.00 per month thats off peak 9am to 4pm monday to friday and all day sat/sun you can do as little or as many activities as you want, it just excludes sauna, steam & solarium. Its a 20 week course at those prices and afterwards slightly more but not much more, and you dont have to be on any benefits at all to be reffered. Hope this is of some help to you. Sue x

Hi Sue,

That’s bril’ - that sounds better than a hospital-run course! Is it available at any gym, or are there only a limited number of participants? Again, if it was miles away, I probably wouldn’t be able to go.

I looked at membership of the local leisure centre, and it was £20 p.m. off-peak, BUT I think you have to pay extra on top for any actual classes, such as yoga, so it would work out a lot more than £12 p.m. if you wanted to do maybe swimming and yoga.

I don’t know if I’ll ever really do it anyway, as I’m a bit of a wimp. But it’s good to know what the options are. I’ve been doing a lot of walking, but it’s tough on my feet, which are painful.

I thought it might be good to mix it up a bit, with some more gentle and supportive exercises.




I’ve been to my local council sports centre on the scheme through my GP. He refers you and then you get 12 weeks (I think). I was able to use the pool any time, use the gym 2 mornings a week or do tai chi classes. It cost £10 to start and then £1 or £2 each time I went. I went to the gym and it was great as the other people there were all from doctors referrals so there wasn’t any gym bunnies making you feel like you’re not very good. My GP said it’s a council thing and you can be referred 3 times in total.

It’s worth asking your GP about it. They might do different classes where you live.


Thanks Sue,

It sounds as if it might vary from place to place (ha, Postcode Lottery ring any bells?), but it sounds broadly similar to the scheme other Sue describes, and still beats paying top whack at the local gym.

There IS a local council-run leisure centre. Not sure quite how easy it would be to get to on public transport (or whether the transport costs would outweigh the overall savings), but I think it’s a lot closer than the hospital!




Tina It’s deffinatley worth asking your GP, hope they can offer you something. Sue x


Yeah, she’s quite approachable. Just thought I’d do a quick sanity check before asking.

If she writes a scrip’ on the spot, I’ll feel bound to do it then, won’t I? Better not let her do that - I haven’t even got any gym clothes, and might not have a cozzy that fits, either. Don’t want the prescription to expire, while I’m still figuring out what gear I need!



I asked to join the “over 60’s” aqua fit class, was brill ad made me feel very young lol

Hi Tina

My GP referred me to the local council run gym on the GP referral scheme initially for 12 weeks. I asked my GP for the referral.

The gym have been brilliant and have really gone out of their way to help and support me. The gym manager also extended my referral to 12 months. Gym instructors who deal with GP referrals who have MS, have to have extra qualifications.

I would give it a go, what have you got to lose?


Thanks All,

It’s reassuring so many of you have proactive GPs, who were willing to do this for you.

I’ll ask her tomorrow. I’ll write it down, otherwise I’ll do the usual: “I’m fine”, and walk out without mentioning half the things I’d meant to. I’m still not promising I’ll actually join the gym, though…just check what’s possible. One step at a time, eh? :wink:



P.S. Daisy, I already do some guided walks under the “Walking to Health” scheme. Although they’re not exclusively for over 60s, nearly everyone else who goes on them is, and I almost always find myself by far the youngest - a mere slip of a girl, at just 46!

There are some pretty robust and seasoned walkers among them, but with a few in the group who are probably more like 80 than 60, I can be confident they won’t go striding off over the horizon, leaving me behind. Even the octagenarians don’t hang about, though. The only time it gets a bit slow is if everyone’s got to queue up, to get over one stile. I actually find standing there is more tiring than if we press on.



I got referred by a physio. This pretended to be a local scheme (and the name has since been changed), where you got an assessment by a qualified fitness instructor, and then for a small fee got a cheap supervised 1-hour session in the local gym (council owned and contractor run). It did me more harm than good, since the fitness expert was not really bothered with whether I could get onto the various machines, or whether I could actually use them, and the “supervisor” came by just once in 5 hours. I quit halfway through the 6th session, in agony.

With hindsight, I should have dumped all the machines except the treadmill (I could still use both legs at that point) and the weight machine, and alternated between the two.

Tina, if you can still walk fairly well, go for this scheme (whatever it is called in your area) and think about the treadmill. If you can vary the speed, and the incline you can go right up to your personal limit, and keep pushing your limit. But, if your local gyns are contractor run, with the instructors on a separate contract, do not expect too much. It may just be a way to get cheap gym access, and this may just be all you will need.


My gp said she would refer me to our ‘local’ sports centre for a 20 week course of fitness therapy. Sounds good but the centre is a good 30 minute drive away! When I said I would be too tired to do anything when I got there she suggested my husband could drive me there - knowing full well that we have three youngish children and hubby works full time! Another suggestion was " have an afternoon nap then go at night when the kids are in bed! I left the surgery feeling like I was making excuses for not actually wanting to go. I’m trying

Hi Geoff,

I’m not sure about the treadmill. Although it’s supposed to replicate natural walking, I feel just being on a machine would send my balance haywire. I’d probably feel more confident just keeping up with the walking I already do - which admittedly is limited by the weather sometimes, but probably still more appealing than a treadmill.

I don’t know if I really want to use many (any?) of the gym machines, although I’m interested in giving powerplate a go. I’ve considered one for the home, but even the lowest spec ones are quite expensive, if you don’t take to it - as well as an ugly white elephant, if just standing there, gathering dust. So would be good to be able to try without committing.

I dunno if I really want a “personal trainer”, as such - though yours doesn’t sound very personal! I appreciate that safety concerns mean I (or even people without MS) can’t just be let loose unsupervised, but I don’t really want a structured programme. I don’t have any “goals”, as such. More just to add a bit of variety to things I can do at my own pace.

I was interested in yoga or pilates, though. I think if there were classes for that, I’d be much more likely to attend than a personalised gym programme. And swimming as well. I’m getting a bit concerned that all the walking is actually making my painful feet worse. Perhaps the support of the water would mean I could get some decent exercise, without my poor old feet taking a hammering every time.


Thanks Stanley,

Good to see you back - how have you been keeping?

And why has your username developed an “o” on the end? :wink:



Hin Tina,

I got referred to an 8 week course at the hospital gym with neuro physios. When that finished I was referred by them to local sports centre gym. Once a week session Tuesday afternoons - £2 per session. The gym instructor specialises in neurological problems and advises on which machines to use. I like the bike and arm cycling. There are about 30 of us so we all get to know each other.

Worth asking in your area.

Jen x


Hi Geoff,

I’m not sure about the treadmill. Although it’s supposed to replicate natural walking, I feel just being on a machine would send my balance haywire. It does !! It was one of my first clues that something was wrong. We have a treadmill in the conservatory, that I used to walk and run on. It is now totally redundant and gathering dust. I should probably just get on and sell it !! Xx


Weird, I just knew it would, without even trying. I’m a bit dodgy even on a moving pavement - e.g. at airports. And one of the stores locally has a horrid thing that’s like a cross between a moving pavement and an escalator - i.e. it’s a moving pavement, but at an incline, or an escalator without steps, if you prefer.

Been on it once - won’t be going on again. Felt totally disoriented, and the incline isn’t good for the tight calves, either.