EVERYONE knows that exercise is beneficial. But traditional gyms can be intimidating, particularly for people with health or mobility problems.
That's why businessman Howard Blackburn decided to launch a new enterprise, the Feelgood Factory in Honley's Queen's Business Park. It's a gym with a difference.
All the equipment is electronically assisted and designed to provide a safe workout that can be as challenging as the user wants and is suitable for all ages and all levels of fitness.
Howard, who owns a manufacturing business called Shapemaster business, also based in Honley, supplies exercise machines to gyms, spas and hospitals all over the world.
The Feelgood Factory gives him the chance to see his products in action and get user feedback.
To celebrate the launch of the gym we offered a free six-month membership to a reader and friend. But we got so many entries that Howard decided to offer two prizes.
Our winners are: Val Hirst (51) a retired district nurse from Kirkburton, (who will train with her friend Hayley Senior (41), also a nurse, from Almondbury); and Pat Dean (72), a retired shop assistant from Honley, (with her friend Kath Whitwam, a nurse, who lives in Marsden).
Both our winners felt that assisted exercise would be helpful to them because each has specific health problems.
At their first appointment our winners were weighed and measured by gym manageresss Rachelle Turner. They are being encouraged to visit the gym three times of week to get the maximum benefit from their membership.
As well as calculating their body mass index (is a better health indicator than weight alone) Rachelle told each of the women their fat percentages.
Ideally, women should have a BMI of between 18.5 and 25 - anything over 30 is considered obese. Body fat depends largely on age and should generally be below 30%.
The idea behind the assisted exercise machines is that they can take the strain and make the user adopt a safe posture while using them.
We'll catch up with our four gym members in a few months' time.
* Val Hirst. Current weight 10st 7lbs - wants to lose one stone. BMI of 24.6 and fat percentage 32.3.
Val, who is single, had to retire from work because of chronic fatigue. Her illness was the long-term result of suffering from Guillain-Barré Syndrome 18 years ago, a frightening condition causing sudden paralysis.
"I was paralysed from the neck down and although I recovered from the paralysis and went back to work six months later the illness left me with permanent damage and I was never completely well. I used to go home for a sleep at lunchtimes so that I could get through the afternoon.
"Three years ago I went off sick with pins and needles and complete exhaustion. I'm a lot better now and I want to get some exercise to get back into shape. I've never been to a gym before," explained Val.
Rachelle says assisted exercise is ideal for someone like Val who doesn't want to push herself too hard and needs to be eased into an exercise regime.
Val's friend Hayley, who is married with one daughter, has been invited along for moral support but says that she wants to tone up and lose a bit of weight. She is also 10st 7lbs, though taller, and has a lower fat percentage at 30.6 and the same BMI at 24. Both women have a normal BMI but want to use the exercise machines to improve general fitness.
* Pat Dean. Current weight 15st 9lbs - needs to lose weight for health reasons. She has a BMI of 38 and fat percentage of 47.
Pat returned to her home town of Huddersfield with her husband after 46 years in the South of England. She has four children and two grandchildren.
Recently diagnosed with age-onset diabetes, Pat knows she must she lose weight to prevent further serious health problems. She also feels that shedding the pounds would help her hip and knee joint pain.
As a singer with the Halifax Gilbert and Sullivan Society she would like to have a better stage presence. "I'm fed up with being one of the biggest on the stage," she says. She is a dress size 22 to 24. "I'm a comfort-eater but I'm now seeing a nutritionist so I know what I should be eating," added Pat.
Assisted exercise is ideal for people who are carrying a lot of weight and have joint problems as the machines support the body.
Pat will be training with her friend Kath, who works at Manchester Children's Hospital. Kath is 14st 13 lbs with a BMI of 32 and fat percentage of 46. Although fairly tall, she needs to lose some weight and hopes it will help her arthritic knees, hands and back.
"It's difficult for me to use ordinary gyms," she says.