Diarmaid McAuley is the Macmillan Physical Activity Manager in Northern Ireland.
A recent and growing body of evidence has highlighted that being physically active during and after cancer treatment can provide a variety of positive health and wellbeing benefits that improve clinical and quality of life outcomes. Following an active lifestyle has been shown to:
- Reduce the consequences of treatment,
- Reduce co-morbidities,
- Reduce disease progression,
- Decrease mortality,
- Decrease recurrence.
For the last 16 months, I have been working as the Macmillan Physical Activity Manager in Northern Ireland. My role is to ensure that everyone living with cancer is aware of the benefits of physical activity and can choose to become active at a level that’s right for them.
In my previous role with Sport Northern Ireland, my primary responsibility was to manage and coordinate ‘Active Communities’. This £14million investment programme is designed to increase participation in physical activity, especially among under-represented groups. The position offered me the opportunity to work with a diverse range of key stakeholders, with the aim of supporting the least active in our society to initiate and sustain active lifestyles. That experience and those partnerships are particularly relevant to my work with Macmillan.
We are currently working to establish ‘Move More Northern Ireland’, a project that will provide people living with and beyond cancer with the support, encouragement and motivation. They will receive information about the benefits of physical activity from healthcare professionals, opportunities to participate in a wide variety of activities tailored to their individual needs and interests, and the behaviour change support that they may require to remain active.
As we develop ‘Move More Northern Ireland’, we are working with key partners including health and social care trusts, district councils, healthy living centres, community and voluntary organisations, other physical activity providers. Our goal is to maximise the physical activity opportunities that already exist throughout Northern Ireland, and where gaps in provision exist, we are working to find solutions.
Crucially, we recognise the need for diversity. Physical activity means different things to different people – for some, it may mean getting along to a gym, going swimming, taking an exercise class or getting involved in sport. For others, it could mean walking a little further each day or joining a walking group, doing some gardening, or being active with children and grandchildren.
The project will support people living with and beyond cancer to identify the opportunities that work best for them, to access those opportunities at a time and place which is convenient, and to find a way to ensure that physical activity becomes an integrated part of their lifestyle.
Move More Northern Ireland will be launched this year to support people living with cancer to enjoy an improved quality of life by becoming and remaining active.