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Lily takes it one step at a time

Exercise enthusiast backs regional awareness campaign. A local fitness fanatic who developed a passion for sport in her 60s is backing NHS Merseyside’s Year of Action on Cancer campaign by urging Merseysiders to make healthy lifestyle changes to help reduce the risk of developing the disease.

lily.pngAlthough there are some things we can’t control about our cancer risk, the latest research from Cancer Research UK reveals that a staggering four in ten cancers can be prevented by known lifestyle factors including being a non-smoker, maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet.

Lily Finch, 71, from West Derby hopes that her experiences of changing her unhealthy habits will encourage Merseysiders to follow suit and make healthier choices , like keeping active and quitting smoking, which have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of developing certain cancers including lung, bowel and breast cancer.

Lily visited her local GP in Knowsley 11 years ago when she was suffering from chest problems and depression.  At the time Lily was smoking 30 cigarettes a day and would rarely leave the house, choosing to stay at home watching day time television to pass the time. Her GP referred to her to a stop smoking programme and later the Activity for LIFE Programme in Knowsley, and since then her life has changed dramatically.

Lily said; “I was 60 when my doctor signed me up for the Activity for LIFE Programme which involved me agreeing to go to exercise classes for 12 weeks. My first thought was that the gym was no place for someone my age, but that I’d try and at least stick it out for a couple of sessions. I’m now 71 and still attending the sessions every week. I loved it straight away and haven’t looked back since. I normally exercise five times a week doing classes like aerobics, aquacise, circuit training and walking.

“I feel like a completely different person now. Not only has it had a hugely beneficial effect on my health but on my social life too. I have made so many great friends through Activity for LIFE and my children joke that I have a better social life than them!

“Keeping up my healthy lifestyle is really important to me, particularly as my mother and brothers had cancer and I was also a volunteer for Cancer Research for around 10 years. I know only too well that it can be easy to get into a rut of being inactive, eating unhealthy food and smoking which as we know can increase our risk of cancer and many other health problems, but if I can change my habits then so can other people too.

“There are lots of NHS and Council services like Activity for LIFE, which are available on our doorsteps and can help people to kick start these lifestyle changes when you’re ready, at your own pace.”

The recent scientific study released by Cancer Research UK demonstrated that our risk of cancer depends on a combination of genetics, our environment and other lifestyle factors, many of which can be controlled.  With cancer incidences in the region above the national average, and 2,400 new cases diagnosed each year in the city, cancer prevention is a big priority for health chiefs in the region.

Gideon Ben-Tovim, Chair of NHS Merseyside, said: “Many people wrongly assume that developing cancer is just down to ‘bad luck’ or genetics, but this research clearly shows that living a healthier lifestyle can decrease our risk of contracting several types of cancer including the most commonly occurring types.

“Lily is the perfect example of how you really can banish some unhealthy habits, no matter what your age or situation and there’s lots of help available locally to support your journey such as Activity for LIFE.”

The Activity for LIFE Programme is aimed at inactive adults in Knowsley over the age of 16 who are looking to lead a healthier lifestyle. The programme is based over a 6 month period which is tailored to the individual’s needs and fitness goals. Activities include tai chi, aerobics, swimming and many more. 

‘Year of Action on Cancer’ was launched earlier this year by NHS Merseyside with NHS Cheshire Warrington and Wirral at the Liverpool Cancer Research UK Centre to educate residents on all aspects of cancer from prevention, early detection, research and innovation and treatment available in the region.

* The Activity for LIFE Programme is available at all Knowsley Leisure Centres for as little as £4 per month.  For more information call 0151 443 3109 or email activityforlife@knowsley.gov.uk

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