- Staying well, connected to others and resilient
- Supporting people to contribute and do things they enjoy
GoodGym Combining getting fit and doing good
GoodGym aims to connect people in their local community by providing opportunities to combine getting fit and doing good. We set up weekly group sessions to run/walk to local community projects to help them with a physical volunteering task, and we connect our members to support isolated older neighbours. This can involve building in a regular social visit as part of a weekly run, or sending two to three members to an older person's home to help with a small task that supports their safety, independence and confidence.
What is the innovation
We explicitly build purpose into physical activity and link that purpose to social challenges shared by local partners. Not only do our members benefit from the personal positive outcomes of physical activity and volunteering, but we also harness that energy to support peers to combat the effects of social isolation.
What is the problem this innovation solves?
This is an interesting question because we find it is constantly evolving depending on who participates with GoodGym and how our community evolves. We believe that increasingly the problem we are helping to tackle is that people want to connect with others, but are looking for different ways that reflect their lifestyle and identity. In particular if one is time-poor, being able to combine volunteering, social connection and in our case exercise is an attractive offer and provides a gateway for our participants to make a difference.
In some ways, although our members can be DBS checked and trained to support isolated older neighbours, our real challenge is how we give purpose to exercise and to harness the energy created by individuals for social good.
Creating both an identity for people to relate to, as well as a platform and infrastructure for people to combine getting fit, doing good and meeting new people.
Loneliness is a growing issue for people of all ages. There are over a million people over the age of 65 who are always or often lonely. Our activities connect people across boundaries of age, sex, class and race. We make it easy for participants to get to know people in their area and enable it to thrive.
However, we need to increase the capacity of the existing GoodGym network so that they can help more people and support more community projects. We want to rival the success of mainstream gyms by getting people off treadmills and into their communities.
We also need to add value to existing networks of services by creating stronger public, private and charity sector partnerships that link volunteers more directly and effectively to isolated people.
1) Getting people active - GoodGym is a friendly and supportive way to increase levels of physical activity. It is shown to increase motivation to exercise and amount of time spent exercising.
2) Building community - GoodGym makes it easy for participants to get to know people in their area and discover amazing community organisations that enable their local area to thrive. Our activities connect people across boundaries of age, sex, class and race.
3) Improving wellbeing - Our approach is to make it easy for people to combine exercise with helping people & projects in their community through providing safe, exciting and impactful opportunities.
4) Reducing isolation and supporting independence - 100% of the older people we support feel happier after 6 months of visits, showing a 28% improvement in life satisfaction. 98% consider their runner a friend after 6 months.
As of March 2020, there are GoodGym communities in 58 local authority areas across the UK. Every week between 1000-1500 people participate, getting fit and doing good in their local area.
For up to date numbers on what we have achieved, we publish all of our latest statistics here: www.goodgym.org/stats
What would councils/health organisations/local areas need to do or have in place to enable it to develop?
Funding is too easy an answer! So I'll go with open and shareable address books. GoodGym thrives when it is connected to the local infrastructure, either through public sector or third sector contacts. Where there is a disjointed local social infrastructure, our GoodGym communities suffer. Open sharing and communication of opportunities to collaborate and reflection on the needs and priorities for local areas help to define and evolve what GoodGym communities can achieve.
What would kill it?
It stops being fun. Community and a desire to be part of it and meet other people drives what we do. We are not a service, and if we ever try to be a service, we will lose the investment and enthusiasm from our membership base that brings GoodGym to life.