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Coronavirus: Online exercise classes saved me from despair, says isolated Derry gran

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Some of the residents in Creggan taking part in outdoor exercise classes this week organised by the Old Library Trust community group

Some of the residents in Creggan taking part in outdoor exercise classes this week organised by the Old Library Trust community group

Some of the residents in Creggan taking part in outdoor exercise classes this week organised by the Old Library Trust community group

A Londonderry grandmother paid tribute to a gym instructor whose online exercises saved her from despair.

Pauline Doherty (63) lives alone in the Creggan area of Derry and was given a speedy lesson on how to work Zoom by Pete Simms from the Old Library Trust living centre so she could take advantage of his exercise classes and coffee catch ups.

Ms Doherty said these have been a lifeline for her, adding: "Those first couple of weeks of lockdown I wasn't in a very good place. I didn't go out and I wasn't in a good place mentally.

"It was Pete who got me online, without him I wouldn't have access to the online exercise classes. He taught me how to get on this Zoom thing, so I could get the Friday chat with my friends. We all have a chat with Pete and his wife Kathleen, we sit and talk about how we're feeling. It all means a hell of a lot to us.

"He had the patience when others didn't to make sure I was connected as I live alone."

Ms Doherty said being able to log on for the classes has given her a reason to get out of bed.

She continued: "The classes make me get out of bed in the morning and it helps to have routine to my day. It starts the day on the right note.

"The exercise class can involve sitting on a chair and using tins of beans as weights and other things around the house. We would also do relaxation moments to help you relax and it is a gentle pace of exercise. Pete is one of the best and if you spoke to anyone out of our class they'd be saying the same thing."

Before lockdown part of Mr Simm's job with the Old Library Trust was community visits to carry out blood pressure checks.

But when Covid-19 prevented him from doing this aspect of his job he was determined to ensure the physical and mental health of the people in his local community didn't suffer.

He said: "When lockdown happened we couldn't go out into the community to check people's blood pressure but there were many people who were borderline high blood pressure or have hypertension or diabetes, who already took part in our exercise classes at the Old Library Trust to help manage their conditions.

"Keeping physically active is important in helping to manage such conditions as hypertension and diabetes as well as helping people's mental health during this time. So although we couldn't physically meet up we wanted to ensure people kept exercising so we increased the amount of exercise classes we offered and moved them online."

Belfast Telegraph