Successful relaunch of Fit Villages in Suffolk

Successful relaunch of Fit Villages in Suffolk

Posted: Tue, 11 Aug 2020 19:08

Successful relaunch of Fit Villages in Suffolk

The long- established Fit Villages project led by the team at Active Suffolk has safely relaunched following the easing of the lockdown restrictions. The return to the Corton Village Hall to deliver the Tai Chi session was a huge success and the team are excited to announce their return to other rural villages across the county.

The Fit Villages project has been delivered by the team at Active Suffolk for over a decade, where it has supported local communities to get involved in physical activity and connect with their neighbours, reducing the risk of social isolation and loneliness and improving physical and mental health.

John Leitch, Fit Villages participant in Kentford and Kennett says:

"Fit Villages is a great initiative that works in harmony with the community to promote fitness and overall wellbeing. Thanks to Fit Villages, I have now participated in a number of different classes in my local village hall."

In the last year, Active Suffolk set up 35 new Fit Villages projects across the county which included, Pilates in Little Bealings, Keep Fit in Dalham and Yoga in Grundisburgh and more. A total of 647 unique participants attended Fit Villages sessions in 2019-20, however the coronavirus pandemic put a stop to the launch of new projects earlier this year.

It is feared that the pandemic has had a significant negative effect on community connectivity and therefore the relaunch of projects such as Fit Villages, has been essential in improving resident's health and wellbeing, whilst also supporting the local sports and physical activity workforce.

During the lockdown, the Fit Villages team at Active Suffolk worked to assess the government's guidelines and prepared for a safe return once the doors could be re-opened.

Nick Pringle, Senior Development Officer for Fit Villages, Active Suffolk says:

"The preparation and dedication of the Fit Villages team during this challenging period has meant that we have been able to launch new projects across the county following the governments announcements and permission to do so.

As a team, we have put several new procedures in place, which allowed us to safely launch our first Fit Villages project since the lockdown. We ran a successful Tai Chi project in Corton at the end of July and the positive response from participants has given us the confidence to continue in other areas.

The need for projects like Fit Villages remains extremely high and so we look forward to relaunching in other areas across the county."

Some of the challenges facing rural populations include lack of access to services, high travel costs, and limited public transport options. Being lonely and/or socially isolated is harmful to health, with research showing that lacking social connections may be as damaging to health as some well-established unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and poor diets. Social networks and friendships not only have an impact on reducing the risk of mortality or developing long term diseases, but they also help individuals to recover when they do fall ill. Recent research indicates that there are nearly 130,000 Suffolk residents who sometimes, often, or always feel lonely, and the prevalence of these is often higher in older adults and females. The evidence supporting the benefits of projects such as Fit Villages, highlights the importance of the return to our rural communities, especially whilst so many more may have been victim of social isolation and loneliness due to the lockdown imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The team at Active Suffolk are working to launch several new Fit Villages projects across the county over the coming months, with one of the first launching next Tuesday 18th August at the Coddenham Centre, where local residents will be invited for a free carpet bowls taster session between 2- 5pm.

In addition to those projects which were already planned for, the team hope to continue working closely with community assets such as the local village halls, shops, churches, pubs, post offices, as well as organisations such as the Rural Coffee Caravan, Community Action Suffolk, Suffolk Family Carers and other voluntary and community organisations, who over time we have built strong relationships with, andhave worked collaboratively with to tackle rural issues across Suffolk.

Ann Osborn, CEO Rural Coffee Caravan / Meet Up Mondays says:

"In our experience, a community building that is used for ALL is what determines how successful it is in the community. For some its inaccessible and those residents must be catered for as well. A community building must always look outwards, offering lifts etc. Fit Villages is, in our opinion and experience, an excellent organisation that does what it says on the tin. We know of classes that have transformed lives. They often end in a cuppa and a chat which is ideal for those coming for more than just the exercise. Staff are friendly, kind and not pushy so therefore effective in engaging residents to WANT to have something for their village. Looking forward to working ever more closely."

After a successful re-launch of the Tai Chi session in Corton last month, Active Suffolk are asking people from villages across the county to come forward if they are interested in setting similar programmes up in their local community.

Chris Lawson, Project Officer for Fit Villages, Active Suffolk says:

"The return to Fit Villages was a really positive experience and the Tai Chi session in Corton was very relaxed. The instructor, Trevor and I worked closely to ensure a safe return and regular, effective communication with participants ahead of the session ensured everyone felt at ease. This also allowed us to minimise any necessary paperwork on the day of the launch, reducing contact and potential risk.

With the support of the village activator, Gill all equipment was thoroughly cleaned before participants entered the hall and chairs were spread out to ensure social distancing was adhered to. Hand sanitiser was provided for participants and the session itself flowed and everyone really enjoy being back!

We would really love to hear from anyone else in the county who would be interested in setting up a Fit Villages project within their local community so that we can continue supporting people across Suffolk to be active and reduce the risk of social isolation and loneliness."

If you would be interested in finding out more about Fit Villages or would like to help start up a project in your rural village, you can discover more information at www.activesuffolk.org/fitvillages or contact the team at info@activesuffolk.org or call 01394 444605

Tags: Active Wellbeing, Activity, Fit Villages, Loneliness, Return to activity, Return to sport, Rural, Social Isolation, Suffolk