Hugh Bethell

After 53 years as a medical practitioner I am becoming increasingly convinced that the answer to most of the population’s health problems is more exercise. Our modern way of life has led to less and less need for physical activity for daily living particularly at work and for just getting about. This lack of activity has contributed to many of our modern health scourges – obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, the frailty of old age and many more.

I first entered the realm of exercise as therapy in 1969. I do not believe that any treatment I have applied since then has been as effective in maintaining health and wellbeing.

 

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My Story

I am a medical practitioner and all my career I have been involved in the clinical applications of exercise, particularly for patients with heart disease. I qualified in 1966 and did my early training in cardiology at the Charing Cross Hospital, under the innovative guidance of Dr Peter Nixon. Peter was one of the first people in this country to adopt exercise as a treatment for patients recovering heart attacks. Until then the watchword for heart patients was rest – and more rest! His colleagues thought that Peter was crazy. History has proved them wrong.

In 1974 I entered general practice in Alton in Hampshire where I continued as a GP until recently.

In 1976 I set up a cardiac rehabilitation (CR) unit in Alton Sports Centre. This was the first community exercise–based CR unit in the country and I have been involved with it ever since. Within two years our facility became the first port of call for all patients discharged from the Basingstoke Coronary Care Unit. We soon expanded our clientele by including patients recovering from all forms of heart surgery, including heart transplants and later we added heart failure patients. I have overseen the exercise treatment of many thousands of cardiac and other patients. My MD thesis was written about the place of exercise in treating people with heart disease.

I have been involved with research in this field for over 40 years. I have written extensively on the subject – two books, 9 book chapters, 65 original scientific papers and 76 review articles. In the early 90s I was the driver in setting up the British Association for Cardiac Rehabilitation (now the British Association for Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation) and became its first President. In 1995 I was awarded an MBE for my work in this field.

For the past decade I have expanded my role to include the use of exercise as a preventive treatment, particularly for frailer older people, to help them to maintain and improve mobility and independence – one of the most important roles of exercise in later life and one of my main messages to readers of this blog. With my colleagues at the Alton Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre I have set up our “Staywell” programme which aims to combat all the diseases and debility associated with inactivity. Currently we take on about 200 new exercisers a year. We also treat frail elderly, particularly those at risk of falling, in our “Steady and Strong” classes. The Centre provides supervised exercise sessions for 12 hours on weekdays and three hours on Saturday mornings.

I am also a keen though incompetent sportsman, at present mainly tennis, running and golf. I set up the local running club – Alton Runners, in 1981.

Hugh Bethell

background & credentials

I qualified in 1966 and did my early training in cardiology at the Charing Cross Hospital, under the innovative guidance of Dr Peter Nixon.

In 1976 I set up a cardiac rehabilitation (CR) unit in Alton Sports Centre. This was the first community exercise–based CR unit in the country and I have been involved with it ever since. Within two years our facility became the first port of call for all patients discharged from the Basingstoke Coronary Care Unit.

With my colleagues at the Alton Cardiac Rehabilitation Centre I have set up our “Staywell” programme which aims to combat all the diseases and debility associated with inactivity.

In 1974 I entered general practice in Alton in Hampshire where I continued as a GP until recently.

I have been involved with research in this field for over 40 years. I have written extensively on the subject – two books, 9 book chapters, 65 original scientific papers and 76 review articles.

In the early 90s I was the driver in setting up the British Association for Cardiac Rehabilitation (now the British Association for Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation) and became its first President. In 1995 I was awarded an MBE for my work in this field.

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More about the Alton Cardiac Rehabilitation centre

 

  • Opened 1997
  • Provides rehabilitation for those recovering from any form of heart disease or heart surgery
  • Staywell programme aims to combat all the diseases and debility associated with inactivity
  • Open for supervised exercise programmes 12 hours daily weekdays and 4 hours on Saturday
  • About 1,000 regular exercisers
  • About 250 new exercisers annually

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