WORKING out on the treadmill and perhaps even pumping iron can now be prescribed to people by their doctor.

North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust (PCT) has joined forces with Courtneys Gym, at Monks Cross, in York, to offer GPs the option of referring their patients for exercise at the facility.

The scheme aims to promote physical activity and it is hoped it will play a key role in improving health and well-being, although it will be up to a person's doctor to decide whether being referred to the gym would benefit them.

David Hawkins-Weeks is a personal trainer who will be working with patients at Courtneys gym.

He said: "Eligible patients can be referred to us here at Courtneys by their GP for an initial 12-week programme.

"The exercise programmes are designed specifically to meet the needs of every individual and consist of regular gym sessions.

"We're aiming to help people who are used to an inactive lifestyle by encouraging them to introduce regular exercise into their weekly activities.

"The exercise referral scheme helps to kick start physical activity but also helps people to overcome any insecurities they may have about the gym environment."

Mr Hawkins-Weeks said that staff at Courtneys will stay in constant contact with every patient who joins the initiative.

He said: "We are always on hand to change or develop their individual programmes as their fitness levels improve and once the 12- week scheme is complete."

The charge per session will be £3.25, which is a 50 per cent discount on the usual fee. It is recommended patients who are referred attend two sessions a week.

A single prescription for drugs currently costs £7.10.

Rachel Johns, the PCT's associate director of public health,said: "The exercise referral scheme allows people who are new to exercise or who have a medical condition the opportunity to experience an active lifestyle with support from a specifically qualified exercise professional. As well as the physical benefits, regular exercise can also help people to feel better in themselves by improving their self esteem and reducing anxiety."