THREE months into the Tūranga Health Eke Tū programme James 'Bull' Smith has dropped 7 kgs to 160kg and is loving life.
“My energy levels are up since I started. Things that would make me tired before I can just run around and do now. My breathing is better too.”
An altercation between his knee and a dairy farm backing gate two years ago, as well as and wear and tear from rugby, meant James thought his exercising days were over.
“When the surgeon said I needed to lose 40kgs to safely have knee surgery, I laughed. I said ‘are you for real?’ His GP referred him to Eke Tū.
James who is Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Porou, travels from Te Karaka to town twice a week for exercise and nutrition sessions.
James and his group take part in yoga, circuit training and swimming. They learn stress management techniques and what a healthy diet looks like. “I was an invalid doing nothing. Now the strength in my knee is improving and even though I am still limited, it is getting much better.
“Once you get that momentum going it is hard to turn back, especially if you have a goal that you want to achieve. In our team there is an excitement and enthusiasm. I love it. I’m not just doing it for myself, I’m doing it to help my Eke Tū teammates now too. I’ve not missed a session yet, I even missed a hangi one time to come into town and exercise.”
James favours the swimming sessions where he can “give 100 percent”. Being in the water takes some of the pressure off his knee. Some unexpected new passions have emerged too. “The yoga sessions are good, they teach us about mindfulness.”
He says initial shyness within the group has dissipated. “Now we’ve learned to take shyness by the horns.”
It’s a fitting metaphor for James who’s known as Bull because of his size. But with his weight loss and his new found love of exercise—tough and determined seems a more appropriate reason he’s called Bull!
Eke Tū is a wraparound Tūranga Health programme run by kaiāwhina and gym instructor Bernie Semau.
The four-month pilot programme focuses on managing and preventing chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes through exercise and healthy lifestyle education.
Bernie runs two Eke Tū groups: eight patients from Gisborne, and 14 patients from Te Karaka. Patients are referred by their GP and both groups are half way through.
“We’ve seen some good results as far as decreases in blood pressure and HBA1C levels. Things like lowering the risk of diabetes are goals,” says Bernie.
Some participants have lost nearly 10kg. “It’s humbling to see those results and cool to be a part of something so positive. The biggest thing has probably been the interactions within the groups; people from different backgrounds and experiences coming together, opening up about their conditions and supporting each other.”
Participants do circuit sessions at the beach, yoga, swimming and gym sessions at Tūranga Health. They learn about nutrition, and their overall wellbeing is monitored by a Tūranga Health nurse. “As far as participation and pilots go, it has been awesome,” says Bernie.
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