'Health' for Heroes

Rugeley Leisure Centre is pioneering a new healthy lifestyle programme to help ex-soldiers combat the debilitating effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Inspiring healthy lifestyles staff members Ben Boden and George Gaye have teamed up with Cannock-based charity Help A Squaddie to launch a pilot course aimed at getting former military personnel up and active.

PTSD is a condition that can lead to anxiety, depression, lack of sleep, feelings of isolation and anger. The condition is believed to be triggered by the harrowing events that military personnel witness whilst on active duty.

The team believes that regular exercise holds the keys to increasing confidence, self-esteem and well-being.

Ben Boden explains: “The condition often leaves people with no confidence or motivation. Often sufferers will lack energy and enthusiasm, but we believe that this can be helped by adopting a more active lifestyle.”

“It has been proven that taking part in regular physical activity can help improve self-esteem and reduce stress and anxiety. It also plays a role in preventing mental health problems and improves people’s quality of life.”

Ben adds: “Even a short burst of exercise - such as a brisk 10 minute walk can boost mental alertness, energy levels and improve your mood.”

Inspiring healthy lifestyles has funded the pilot project, which will initially have 10 places available. It will run for 12 weeks during which time the veterans will be assessed and a bespoke package of activity and exercise will be developed to suit their needs.

It will be open to any former military personnel in the Cannock Chase area who have been given a diagnosis of PTSD.

Ben and the team believe that the results of the initial project could have lasting benefits for veterans across the country.                                                                                                 

He said: “Help A Squaddie will help us to identify people who may be eligible for the scheme. There will be an initial consultation with a health professional where we will assess the candidate’s mood, mental state and general wellbeing.”

“Veterans will be used to a certain level of physical activity so this course will not be aimed solely at getting people fit. It doesn’t mean that they will be working out in the gym every day. We will develop a personal programme for them which could include outdoors activity such as biking, walking or running.”

Ben added: “At the end of the course we will re-evaluate the candidate to see if there has been any change in their condition and outlook on life. We believe that people will respond positively and we hope to use these findings to attract more funding and roll it out to even more veterans.”

Help A Squaddie began life in Cannock Chase in 2015 as a group of volunteers working with homeless former soldiers. Since then its remit has expanded and it now works with veterans across the country.

Founder Kerry Urquhart suggested the project following a conversation with local Invictus Games heroes Dave Watson and Scott Yarrington. Kerry believes the Rugeley Leisure Centre project has the potential to make a real difference.

“There is no support for people leaving the Armed Forces and often it can be a challenge for them to re-adapt to civilian life,” said Kerry. “I believe as many as one in four veterans will experience some form of PTSD, so Inspiring healthy lifestyles are really leading the way. This will be the first of many such projects across the country. Often veterans are too proud to ask for help but we have found that once it is offered they respond really well. We’re looking forward to being part of this and watching it grow.”

Cannock Chase District Council’s Lead Member for Culture and Sport, Cllr Christine Mitchell, added: “We owe so much to our veterans that it is important that we do everything we can to support them when they need it. This is an exciting project and we believe it will provide our ex-military community with some much-needed help.“The benefits of regular exercise are well-documented, so we are looking for some really positive outcomes from this scheme.”       


  • If you know someone who may benefit from taking part in the scheme, please contact George Gaye or Ben Boden at Rugeley Leisure Centre on 01889 586260 or email Kerry Urquhart at kerry@helpasquaddie.org.uk