Kingston Eco-op is using lessons learned during lockdown as a springboard for new fitness activities at its centre.
In March 2020, 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.
Following a difficult period of lockdown Kingston Eco-op, a KVA project, reopened at a new centre on 19 October.
Kingston Eco-op is a longstanding Kingston project which started out as a partnership of local charities. The project is managed by Kingston Voluntary Action and they have partnerships with different local providers and organisations.
When the lockdown was in place in March, Kingston Eco-op staff were worried about how their community would cope as many of the people they support have learning disabilities and mental health conditions and would struggle with feeling isolated.
Service users used to meet at their previous centre to socialise and take part in activities. During lockdown the project shifted to making regular phone calls, going on walks and delivering fun things to keep busy at home.
During the last six months Eco-op has had to deal with numerous hurdles. This included supporting people at a distance and finding a new premises.
However, Kingston Eco-op has found a light and airy new space at the Searchlight Centre in New Malden which brings many new and fun possibilities.
Kingston Eco-op acknowledge they owe a great deal to Kingston Mencap for helping make this happen.
Chris Williamson, Project Co-ordinator at Kingston Eco-Op, said: “It has been a difficult summer but our community has supported each other and we look forward to seeing what we can achieve together in our new home.”