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Cambridge City Council

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Fitness for adults with long-term medical conditions

If you live in or around Cambridge, exercise referral services can help you become more active. They can help you manage your medical condition or disability through a prescriptive programme of activity.

Each programme lasts a minimum of 12 weeks. During this time, specialist exercise professionals will provide support, assistance and supervision.

We have suspended our exercise referral service, due to the national lockdown. We will implement a staggered return to service when the government provides information about the lockdown ending. Contact us for further information. Thank you for your continued patience.

There are two exercise referral services in Cambridge – Healthwise and Start-Up. Both are suitable for inactive adults with a long-term medical condition or disability.

Both services provide the same level of support and monitoring and can be accessed via a referral from a local health professional.  This could be your GP, practice nurse, specialist nurse, physiotherapist, occupational therapist or dietitian.

All GP surgeries have the option to refer patients, as well as some departments at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Brookfields Hospital, Royal Papworth Hospital and Chesterton Medical Centre.

Speak to your health professional for information on your eligibility for referral, or download our guidance.

Eligible reasons for referral include:

  • Anxiety or depression illnesses
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Neurological conditions
  • Obesity
  • Respiratory disorders

Availability and cost

The exercise referral service is available at seven sites across the city:

  • Abbey Leisure Complex (Healthwise)
  • Cherry Hinton Village Centre (Healthwise)
  • Chesterton Sports Centre (Start-Up)
  • Meadows Community Centre (Heartbeat Fitness)
  • Netherhall Sports Centre (Start-Up)
  • Parkside Pool and gym (Healthwise)
  • Trumpington Sport (Start-Up) – currently closed for exercise referral due to coronavirus

When referred, you will be able to access these sites at a reduced rate of just £3 per session, plus a £7.50 initial assessment fee.

If you are registered at any of the following surgeries, you can currently access the course for free.

  • Arbury Road
  • East Barnwell
  • Nuffield Road

A free course of exercise referral is also available to patients eligible for a free prescription and who are registered to the following surgeries:

  • Cornford House
  • Fishers Lane
  • Mill Road
  • Petersfield
  • Red House
  • Trumpington (Clay Farm)
  • York Street

The service currently has limited capacity, so new referrals will only be accepted for patients registered to:

  • Arbury Road surgery
  • Cornford House surgery
  • East Barnwell medical centre
  • Fishers Lane surgery
  • Nuffield Road surgery
  • Queen Edith medical practice
  • York Street medical practice


The services currently provide the following activities:

  • Tailored gym programmes in a supervised environment
  • Long-term condition fitness and mobility circuit classes
  • Recreational swimming
  • Cardiac, respiratory, stroke and cancer rehabilitation
  • Dementia-friendly sessions
  • Strength and balance classes
  • Weight-management classes
  • Quarterly walking tours


The exercise referral service provides a variety of classes at different levels, aimed at improving functional and physical fitness, in order to improve the ability to perform activities required for everyday living.

These classes cost £3 per session unless otherwise stated. They can only be accessed via an exercise referral form from a health professional.

Classes are currently being delivered at limited capacity, due to the requirement for social distancing.

Contact us about these classes unless other contact details are given.

In addition to these classes, exercise referral participants can attend other specialist sessions, including dementia-friendly swims, older-adult and weight-management activities and walking tours of the botanic gardens. Contact us for more information.

Cardiac rehabilitation classes are the perfect follow-up to clinical-based Phase III cardiac rehabilitation or for people who have had a historic cardiac event. These classes can only be accessed via a specific referral from a health professional and if you have had a heart attack, suffer with angina, have coronary heart disease or have had heart surgery.

The exercise referral service is currently closed to cardiac referrals and our phase IV sessions have been suspended. We hope to resume cardiac referral services from January 2021.

Free botanic garden walking tours

Join a guided walk around the Cambridge University botanic garden and see it change with the seasons. The walks are free to exercise referral participants.

  • Dates to be confirmed

You must book your places in advance – contact

Information for health professionals

We adhere to the guidelines as stipulated in the Department of Health’s NQAF for exercise referral systems (2001).

How to make a referral

Only the following health professionals can refer to our exercise referral services:

  • Doctors (all grades and specialisms)
  • Nurses (all grades and specialisms)
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Dietitians

We recommend that all health professionals who wish to refer first read the scheme’s terms and conditions [PDF, 0.7MB].

We also recommend that health professionals register with the service. If you do so, we will add you to our database of health professionals, and send you regular emails about the service and hard copies of the referral forms.

You can also provide consent for us to share your contact details with South Cambridgeshire District Council’s exercise referral service, if appropriate.

Referral forms should ideally be completed and given to the patient, giving them responsibility for choosing and contacting their best location for an appointment.

Referral forms

Exercise referral scheme annual report