COMMUNITY HERO: Dad’s drive on fitness is an inspiration

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Ever since losing 12 stones at Concord Sports Centre in Shiregreen, David Birds has been on a mission to give to the community what fitness gave to him. Dropping from 26 to 14 stone, Dave was inspired to retrain as an exercise referral instructor.
He had a vision to spearhead the centre’s referral scheme to reduce negative health statistics in the community - one of the most deprived areas of Sheffield.
Ten years later, Dave is responsible for the development of one of the UK’s biggest schemes which has transformed the lives of 15,000 people with chronic health conditions - from heart disease to diabetes. His sheer determination to support people to improve their health through exercise has set standards which are now commonplace UK-wide.
Dave’s drive has seen the scheme expand from 80 people to 1,500 patients every year across five SIV facilities. 
Dave- who was voted the best personal trainer in the country and was a Pride of Britain finalist - has helped thousands of patients. One, Craig Potts, has dropped from 30 to 14 stone.

Craig said: “If I hadn’t been to see Dave I would be dead now.”

WHAT IS YOUR COMMUNITY ROLE?

I am proud to be the Group Exercise Referral Manager for SIV, which is part of Sheffield City Trust where the primary objective is to improve the health and wellbeing of Sheffield people by providing facilities for sport and leisure activities.

WHere do you live?

I live in Wincobank, and have done for most of my life, in a quiet house with my wife, Debra. All three children have flown the nest. I say quiet - occasionally it’s a madhouse when four grandchildren drop in!

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING IN THE COMMUNITY ON THIS CAMPAIGN?

I started at Concord after a mid-life crisis, losing twelve stones in weight and discovering training. I left my job in 2004 to become a part time gym instructor at Concord, thankfully with the love and support of my family. Being a local lad, I knew at the time I wanted to do more than just be a gym instructor, and wanted somehow to change the poor health statistics in the area. So, after studying full-on for a year, I qualified as a personal trainer and GP Referral Instructor. In 2005, when I started a GP Exercise Referral Scheme, doctors and people in general were nervous about promoting physical activity to help manage symptoms of long term conditions, but thankfully three local surgeries trusted me with a small group of patients. I worked in my own time with these volunteers, from those original twelve patients, nine people completed twelve weeks and had lost weight, reduced their blood pressure, or just generally felt fitter and healthier. They joined the gym and some still train today at Concord - the referral scheme was born.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR HIGHLIGHTS DURING THE CAMPAIGN AND WHAT HAS BEEN MOST REWARDING?

The real highlights are the changes you see in people’s lives, some lose weight, some get fitter and stronger, some don’t take tablets anymore and some are able to walk again, or feel more confident to get out of the house and meet people. Some people manage to go back to work, or even the real simple things like being able to sleep!

WHAT ELSE DO YOU HOPE THIS CAMPAIGN ACHIEVES?

Over time, health professionals have now embraced the idea that being physically active can not only reduce your chances of illness and disease, but can help in the management of them. The community I live and work in embraces this with the new National Centre for Sports and Exercise Medicine, the first one in the country of its type based at Concord. Sheffield as a city has a great “Move More” strategy to become the UKs most active city by 2020, these are exciting times - so what are we waiting for?

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEONE CONSIDERING GETTING INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY WORK?

It’s the most rewarding thing you will ever do.

I was lucky. I had a passion, happened to be in the right place at the right time, the support of family, and a company that embraced my ideas and help me achieve what I wanted to.