Coinciding with the re-launch of The Junction Gym, our Buddy Up Gym Sessions has also undergone a refresh and have moved to a new time on Saturday mornings 12.00-1.00pm starting 2nd June 2018.
For those unfamiliar with our Buddy Up Gym Sessions, here is some background as to how we have been able to run this programme and what the benefits have been to the young people who have taken part to date.
In 2016, we received grant funding from the Peter Harrison Foundation which enabled us to deliver an inclusive programme of gym-based fitness activities aimed at engaging children and young people with disabilities and learning difficulties. Buddy Up in the Gym follows a 13-week structure delivered three times a year.
Last year, the programme engaged with 34 individuals aged between 7 and 19, all with additional needs. Young people who are involved in our Buddy Up mentoring and befriending programme were invited to attend. In addition, the project was promoted by partner organisations (including Westland Drive Children’s Home, Child Development Centre and Warrington Disability Partnership) and we were pleased to welcome several new members who had no previous involvement with WYC, but who were attracted by the concept of disability-specific sports and fitness.
With a focus on inclusion, each project followed a schedule of gym sessions and healthy lifestyle training delivered by a qualified Gym Instructor and supported by Youth Workers involved in the Buddy Up programme. Taking place at The Junction Gym on Buttermarket Street in Warrington, the young people experienced structured sessions, formal inductions of all the gym equipment, circuit training, core exercises and spin bike sessions. The physical aspect was complemented by a series of educational sessions using interactive methods to teach the young people about the benefit of diet, nutrition, healthy lifestyle choices, healthy relationships, stress management and mindfulness.
Regular sessions were completed by external coaches who delivered special classes in Boxercise, Yoga and Martial Arts. Special group trips were offered at Challenge 4 Change and North Face Climbing Wall, who both offered discounted rates in support of the project. Each of the projects concluded with a celebration event at The Junction where participants received a certificate of attendance, shared a healthy buffet, and reflected on their achievements.
What did we achieve? What were the outcomes for the participants?
There was an overwhelming amount of evidence to show that the participants benefited from the Buddy Up in the Gym sessions. In 2017, all participants completed an evaluation form at the beginning and end of each project. This allowed us to chart the participants’ progressions in key areas. From doing this exercise we learnt:
- 82% young people increased in confidence
- 94% had made a friend and felt more socially active
- 73% said they felt physically fitter, stronger and healthier
- 85% said they would like to do more physical activities following the project
By the very nature of the project, the young people who attended became more active and led less sedentary lifestyles during their time with us. This combined with an increased awareness and knowledge about healthy lifestyles, nutrition and diet, forms part of our commitment to increase the health, fitness and wellbeing of all our members, especially those who are disabled or disadvantaged. We had an abundance of positive feedback from parents and carers throughout the year:
Marcus (left) is 16 and has chronic pulmonary disease. He also suffers from social anxieties. His mother Sharon said; “Before Marcus started the Buddy up gym sessions he hated doing anything that didn’t involve him being alone or even out of the house and we had tried lots of mainstream groups which he didn’t cope with as they were too busy or too loud. When the Buddy up gym sessions were first offered Marcus reluctantly agreed to give it a try and was instantly impressed. He loved being in the gym and even with his chronic lung disease the staff helped him to reach his limits, he would always count down to the next Buddy up gym session.”
Courtney is 13, and has recently moved to Warrington. Courtney has Autism and struggles socially. Her mum Jodie commented; “Before Courtney joined the exercise class she was extremely sedentary and introverted. She rarely left her bedroom and would sit on her bed all evening. The exercise class really energised Courtney, improved her mood and she was always more sociable after class. It made her think about more healthy ways of living. She always looked forwards to class and has been asking every week when she can go back as she now understands the importance of exercise.”
Niall is 17, and is on the Autistic Spectrum. Socially he struggles to interact with his peers, but the gym has given him something that he can really look forward to. Parent Nikki said; “My son has grown in so many ways since attending the Buddy up gym sessions. He was lacking in self-esteem and confidence, struggling with large group activities, intimidated by the idea of attending a large gym. The Buddy up gym is small and relaxed setting. The staff are fantastic; they put him at ease and treated him as an individual. They supported and pushed him. This is the highlight of his week!”