Kingston Eco-op is using lessons learned during lockdown as a springboard for new fitness activities at its centre.

In March, the Kingston project, which is managed by Kingston Voluntary Action, was forced to close its doors to its community because of the health crisis.

There were immediate concerns its service users, who have learning disabilities and mental health conditions, would become isolated and miss out on the exercise they usually took during their activities at Kingston Eco-op’s centre.

With the help of interested service users and volunteer‘fitness buddies’, Eco-op leaders planned an online ‘Exercise in Lockdown’ project.

There were many challenges to delivering remote exercise classes. Keeping those taking part safe was the main priority. The service users met with their exercise buddy on a one-to-one basis and lots of thought was given to making sure exercises were easy to understand and fun too.

It was hoped that clients would complete six sessions. All of them achieved this target and a couple of them enjoyed the course so much, they carried on for a total for 12 weeks. All of the clients reported feeling better for doing the sessions. Their mobility was maintained and stamina improved.

One of the clients said: ‘I really enjoyed the sessions. We danced to get out of breath. I am much stronger and I want to do more exercise.’

The project was such a success and the service users were so inspired, the team have decided to extend the fitness offering when the centre re-opens.

Leeni Szalay, Operations Manager at Kingston Eco-Op, said: “It was really wonderful to see how our clients blossomed through doing exercise sessions with Sarah. We would like to increase exercise opportunities for our clients as it is so beneficial to their physical and mental well-being. We are currently looking at some funding streams to help with the delivery of exercises at our centre.”

Clients who completed the six-week course will receive a certificate when the centre is able to fully open.