Improved fitness and an antidote to loneliness are just some of the benefits for participants of new Tendring community project Let’s Keep Moving.
The project, which formed on the eve of summer 2018, is a friendly and welcoming group for adults aged over 50 looking to get and stay active.
“We’re in the community dealing with people who are trying to get back into exercise, but they have problems with illnesses or loneliness,” says project co-ordinator Lorraine Hughes, who runs the free and weekly sessions at Brotherhood Hall.
“The classes are very low impact, just get them exercising: stretching the body, improving their posture, conditioning, fat-burning – nothing too strenuous as some have heart conditions – and improving their balance, as some have had falls.”
One participant, referred by his GP after years of smoking two packs of cigarettes every day, has already dramatically improved his fitness.
“When he first started you could really hear him panting and it was a bit worrying,” says Lorraine. “He was told to pack up his smoking lifestyle and he has really improved now and is able to do a lot of the exercises.”
The group’s social benefits are a key attraction for many others: “Some don’t get to see a lot of people during the week. They feel a bit depressed because they’re lonely and think ‘what’s the point of looking after my fitness’, but joining the group and working together and making friends has really motivated them.”
Through the Essex Local Delivery Pilot, Lorraine hopes to grow the number of attendees from around seven currently to 50 – and move into a larger venue.
“I’d like to advertise more, help more people, and provide tea and coffee at the end of every session,” she said.
Asked for her advice for other community projects, Lorraine added: “Understand your clients – really become an expert on their backgrounds and conditions, because they think they’re the experts – and make sure you’re able to adapt to help them. It’s not one-size-fits all. It needs to be adapted to them – otherwise they’ll never come back.”