Killing two birds with one stone

Large proportions of British adults fail to get their recommended 150 minutes a week of physical activity a week. At the same time, the UK has an aging population, leading to increasing numbers of older people who are lonely or isolated. Could GoodGym offer a novel solution to both of these problems?

It’s an organisation that aims to make exercise a more productive, by getting its members to combine regular runs with one (or more!) of three things:

  • Doing manual labour for community organisations as part of a group of runners
  • Making social visits to isolated older people – nicknamed “coaches” as they provide motivation to the runner
  • Running one-off missions for vulnerable people – everything from gardening to changing lightbulbs.

After beginning life Tower Hamlets in 2009, it’s now operating in a number of London boroughs as well as Bristol, with plans to expand to areas like Bath, Bournemouth and Chelmsford shortly.

It’s an innovative idea which encourages younger people to get regular exercise while taking an active role in their local community and helping older people. Speaking from personal experience of the group runs, it’s a fun way to improve my running and add some variety to my exercise regime – something which used to feel like a chore has become something that I actively look forward to! But more than that, it’s a chance to get involved in and contribute to my community, something which isn’t always easy in a city like London.

The organisation has already won awards from the Cabinet Office and the Mayor of London. But with public health and social care continuing to be significant priorities for the Government, perhaps the Department of Health should be having a look as well.