AS people live longer and busier lives, keeping ourselves fit and active is more important than ever.

Bury Times went behind the scenes to discover how Bury Council are working hard to ensure residents across the borough are able to live healthier lifestyles, and explore the range of services on offer.

Last year 9,501 NHS Health Checks were completed in Bury, ranking it as the second highest borough in the north of England, and the highest in the North West for the programme.

The checks, overseen by the council, are designed to detect early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia in adults aged 40-74.

Those eligible are invited to checks at their GP every five years and may then be referred to suitable services to help manage these conditions, combat risks and improve physical and mental wellbeing.

One such referral programme is BEATS, Bury's Exercise and Therapy Scheme.

The free programme offers discounted access to leisure facilities and a range of more gentle exercise classes.

Jim McGlynn, an exercise and referral officer for BEATS, works with people referred by doctors to find activity programmes that work for them.

He said: "There's so much out there you that you can do. We look at getting people from doing nothing to doing something, and just getting people active.

"What is really important is that people see that leisure centres are here for everybody, and it is about making people feel that everybody in the community can access them and feel safe.

"I think BEATS for me is giving people confidence and a better outlook on life."

BEATS has helped dozens of people across Bury change their lives and the scheme has been such a success that organisers are in the process of expanding to offer more classes and greater capacity.

One BEATS user is Wayne Ellis, aged 48, from Whitefield, who suffers from COPD.

Diagnosed with depression in 2000, he became a recluse which caused his muscles to waste away.

After a COPD exacerbation in late 2016 left with just 10 per cent lung capacity he was referred to BEATS by a pulmonary rehab team.

He said: "When I had my exacerbations it was really difficult and you can't get around because you can't get your breath. But doing these classes has really helped a lot.

"BEATS helps with the social side as well as the physical. Everybody comes here to do a bit of exercise and enjoy themselves.

"If I hadn't been referred here I would just sit at home and I would be back to where I was 10 years ago.

"I don't want to go back there so I'm doing everything I can to try and help the mind and body."

Another is Margaret Laidlaw, aged 74, from Tottington who also suffers from COPD.

She said: "I have just improved so much while being here. The BEATS group is nice and I get to meet other people and talk to them. I plan on coming for as long as I can."

However, people do not have to wait to be invited for a health check as there are a number of free tools available including the Heart Age Test and How Are You Quiz.

Residents can also access the award nominated Bury Directory and Quality of Life Wheel, which provide information and advice, as well as allowing individuals to create personalised wellbeing plans.

Councillor Andrea Simpson, Deputy Leader of Bury Council and Portfolio Lead for Health and Wellbeing, said: “I am passionate about the public services we deliver in Bury – our approach is very much focused on the individual, as one size does not fit all when it comes to looking after ourselves.

"Fundamentally people in Bury want to live as healthy a life as possible – that is indicated by the fact we have one of the highest NHS Health Check rates in the country.

"The key to Health and Wellbeing is carving out the appropriate path for each person, and that is exactly the approach that Bury Council takes.

"Demands on our services are ever increasing which stretches our resources very tightly, which is why it is so important that we all take charge of our own health.

"I have worked in NHS Primary Care for nearly 30 years and been a Practice Manager for over 20 years and see the benefits every day of early intervention – I urge people living in Bury to make the most of information and advice which is freely available through tools such as the Bury Directory which was shortlisted for an award."

For more information about BEATS and services around Bury contact, call 0161 253 6668, or visit the Bury Council Directory at