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Scientist turned Personal Trainer Combines Medical Knowledge with Exercise for Patient Fitness

by Sandra Lake(more info)

listed in exercise and fitness, originally published in issue 219 - January 2015

WITH more GPs urging patients with chronic illness to help their symptoms via exercise, a biomedical scientist turned personal trainer is advising on the best way to exercise while undergoing medical treatment. Sandra Lake, 48, from Maple Cross, studied biomedical sciences at Willesden College of Technology and the University of West England, before working for the NHS for 28 years. Due to the ongoing stress of working for the NHS, Sandra completed a diploma in personal training, studying in her lunchtime while working at Watford General Hospital and qualifying in 2011.

She was further inspired to make this career change due to her late mother’s health conditions which were largely owed to the fact that she had never exercised in her life and despite it being prescribed for her, she didn’t know where or who to go to for help. So Sandra now offers bespoke exercise and training courses for adults with these chronic illnesses. She said: “I found a good balance between my medical knowledge and the knowledge needed for the fitness industry - they went hand in hand.

Exercise for the Elderly

“The fact is if you have a chronic condition, regular exercise can help you manage symptoms and improve your health. For example, strength training can improve muscle strength and endurance, making it easier to do general daily activities and also slow down disease-related declines in muscle strength.

“If you have Diabetes, regular exercise can help insulin more effectively lower your blood sugar level. It obviously also helps control your weight and boosts energy levels. But she warned: “However, keep in mind that physical activity lowers blood sugar, so check your blood sugar level beforehand. If you take insulin or diabetes medications that lower blood sugar, you might need to eat a snack before exercising.”

Training people with Asthma is another area where Sandra is qualified to help:

“Asthma is also a common concern, particularly in the summer if there are high pollen levels. Exercise can actually control the frequency and severity of attacks, but if you have exercise-induced asthma, you might choose activities that involve short bursts of activity - such as tennis or football. If you use an inhaler, be sure to keep it handy while you exercise."

She also works with people with lower back pain and Arthritis.

“On top of this, we know that back problems are also widespread, but low impact aerobic activities can increase strength and endurance in your back and improve muscle function. Abdominal and back muscle exercises - core-strengthening exercises - help reduce symptoms by strengthening the muscles around your spine.

“Even with symptoms of Arthritis, common in the older generation, exercise can reduce pain and help maintain muscle strength in affected joints and reduce stiffness, but consider taking a warm shower before you exercise. Heat can relax your joints and muscles and relieve any pain you might have before you begin. Also, be sure to choose shoes that provide shock absorption and stability during exercise.”

However she was keen to point out that doctors and other health care providers would also recommend specific exercises and she always works closely with the patient, their medication needs and other advisors.

“The drugs used to treat these diseases have effects on exercise and exercise prescription along with the disease itself. I take into consideration all contraindications and precautions relevant to each drug the person is on to put together a personalized and safe programme.

“Checking the time certain medications are taken in relation to the time of exercise is also important,” said Sandra. Another problem Sandra said she comes across in her new career is that people with chronic illness have often not been active for some time.

“If you haven't been active for a while, start slowly and build up gradually. Ask your doctor what kind of exercise goals you can safely set for yourself as you progress. I work together with the patient on this,” she said. Sandra’s work also includes checking heart rate and exertion levels, adapting specific exercises according to the disease and drugs, monitoring exercise frequency, intensity and type, monitoring exercise levels for age and ability and providing tailored warm-ups and cool downs.


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About Sandra Lake

Sandra Lake, after working as a Biomedical Scientist in Haematology for many years and witnessing first-hand the changes taking place in the health care system, decided it was time for a change of career. She embarked on a personal training diploma where she found a good balance between my medical knowledge and knowledge needed for the fitness industry - they went hand-in-hand. Sandra helps people to integrate physical activity into their lifestyle to help reduce medication dependency, maintain independence and improve quality of life for the older adult. Working with people will better help them understand how to manage and work with their condition to improve overall, health, wellness and fitness. At her company LIFE she looks at specific goals then help people achieve them. Sandra may be contacted on  Tel: 07542 136747;

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