Building a Better Health Service


New exercise programme improves quality of life


Edel Larkin, Community Sports Hub Coordinator , Athlone Regional Sports Centre; Marie Smith, Midlands Exwell participant; Orlagh Claffey, Chief Operations Officer, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group; Liam Cunningham, General Manager, Athlone Regional Sports Centre; Dr Theresa Donnelly, Consultant Geriatrician, Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore; Daniel Fagan, Head of Operations,  Exwell Medical and Colm Connolly, Midlands Exwell participant; and Pat O’Callaghan, Midlands Exwell participant.

Participants enjoying a Midlands ExWell Medical Programme class in the Athlone Regional Sports Centre with Edel Larkin, the Community Sports Hub Coordinator.

A new exercise programme recently launched in Athlone will improve participants quality of life, according to Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG) CEO Trevor O’Callaghan.  Aimed at providing effective, high quality, safe and accessible exercise rehabilitation for those with chronic illness, the ExWell Medical Programme is based on a successful pilot project that showed “dramatic improvements in strength and aerobic fitness among participants,” according to Dr Teresa Donnelly, Consultant Geriatrician with the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore.

Based at Athlone Regional Sports Centre, the aim of the programme is to provide effective, high quality, safe and accessible exercise rehabilitation to those with chronic illness. Funded by the DMHG, the classes are free of charge, with participants referred by a medical professional.

 Exercise classes

Featuring supervised exercise classes, as well as home programmes for people with varying long term illnesses, participants are encouraged to become fit and active in a friendly, enjoyable environment.

Expressing his pride for DMHG in supporting the programme Trevor O’Callaghan added: This is an incredible programme which can greatly improve a participant’s quality of life. The Hospital Group has identified community-based clinical exercise programmes as a very important intervention for rehabilitation and enhancement of wellness in people with any form of chronic (long-term) illness. We look forward to seeing the programme develop and make a meaningful change in participant’s lives going forward.”

For programme participant Pat O’Callaghan, the benefits have been significant:  “Since joining Exwell, the stiffness in my back has freed up, muscles have gotten strong again and I can now swing a golf club with ease and comfort, I even won the Club Weekend Competition in October which I believe I could not have achieved without the contribution of the Exwell Exercise Programme. Apart from the benefit to my golf game, I really feel the benefit to my physical wellbeing. Joining Exwell was the best thing I did in 2021.”

 Mental wellbeing

Fellow participant Colm Callaghan was equally enthusiastic: “When my doctor suggested I do this programme, I must admit I was hesitant. But now twelve weeks later, I am so glad I took his advice as it is one of the best things I’ve ever done! With the help of Edel and the fitness team, the programme has been of great benefit to me. I’ve lost a stone in weight, I can walk a lot more and I can now do the whole hour of class without getting breathless. I’ve also met some lovely people in the class, it is great for your mental wellbeing as well.

 Referring to the original pilot project, Dr. Teresa Donnelly, Consultant Geriatrician Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore noted that “the programme was launched after a very successful pilot project that the Hospital undertook with Exwell Medical in 2021. The results of the pilot, attended by nearly 100 participants on medical referral from the Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore and from local GPs, showed dramatic improvements in strength, aerobic fitness, frailty and self-rated health. The participants' feedback was that the classes were really enjoyable and safe.”


Dr. Noel McCaffrey, Founder and CEO of Exwell Medical added that “the rationale behind ExWell Medical is that a large proportion of the disability and unwellness that comes with any long term illness is caused by becoming de-conditioned. At ExWell we can improve or reverse this with appropriate exercise thereby greatly enhancing a person's quality of life. Athlone Regional Sports Centre is an ideal location for the programme. The indoor and outdoor facilities are excellent and the staff involved in delivering the classes, led by Edel Larkin, the Community Sports Hub Coordinator, are highly trained and fully committed to working with, encouraging and supporting those people with chronic illness.”

Noting his delight at being involved in the initiative, Dr Jerry O’Flynn, GP at Kilbeggan Medical said he was ”delighted to be involved in this important initiative. We have found that our patients are enthusiastic and it is providing a marked benefit in physical coordination, mood and stamina. There is a real holistic and social element to its delivery and ease of referral for the healthcare professional.”

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