Charity on a mission to a healthier, more active 2021 - Helen Macfarlane

This year has been a year like no other. Back in February, before coronavirus was even a word in most people’s vocabularies, we could never have imagined how much our lives would be turned upside down.

Helen Macfarlane is Head of Active Communities at Edinburgh Leisure.
Helen Macfarlane is Head of Active Communities at Edinburgh Leisure.

We have watched lockdown have a huge impact on people's health and wellbeing. While some people were more active than ever, using their daily exercise allowance to get outside and walk, run or cycle, many others struggled. For people who already faced barriers to being active, such as those with long term health conditions, unpaid carers, and families living on low incomes, lockdown resulted in a sharp decline in their physical and mental health.

As winter sets in and coronavirus lingers on, there has never been a more important time for us to look after our health and wellbeing. One of the best things we can do is be active – whether that’s meeting a friend for a round of golf or going for a walk to break up the day. As well as improving our physical health, it can improve our mood, boost our energy levels, reduce stress and help us to switch off.

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Edinburgh Leisure is a charity on a mission to help everyone in Edinburgh lead healthier, happier and more active lives. We are passionate about the positive impact physical activity has, which is why we are proud that our Active Communities programme supports over 10,000 people affected by disabilities, health conditions, poverty and inequalities to be active each year.

As well as improving our physical health, exercise can improve our mood, boost our energy levels, reduce stress and help us to switch off

We know that the people that Active Communities supports were amongst those hardest hit by lockdown, with a sudden loss of routine, an abrupt end to the support networks they rely on and increased social isolation exacerbating the problems they already faced. We have been working hard to ensure our Active Communities projects remain safe and we were delighted to start welcoming participants back at the end of October.

We are currently supporting people with a combination of in-person and virtual activities. With current Tier restrictions meaning we can’t deliver adult group sessions indoors, we have moved some activities outdoors, pre-recorded some sessions for people to try at home and will shortly be launching a live streaming service so that people can work out alongside their instructor and group in real time.

One project that recently re-started is Active Mums, which supports mums and their families affected by poverty to get active. They have swapped indoor sessions at Leith Victoria Swim Centre for outdoor sessions at nearby Pilrig Park.

One mum, Laura, said: “I’m loving being part of the Active Mums group! The Instructors have been so creative, finding ways for us to exercise together as a group outside. Not only are the sessions fun, but we feel like a community of friends who are there for one another.”

If there is one thing we have learned in 2020, it is that there are few things more valuable than our health. With our Active Communities programme having re-started, we are looking forward to supporting some of the people worst affected by lockdown to rebuild after a challenging year and work towards a healthier, happier and more active 2021!

For more information on Active Communities, contact Helen Macfarlane at [email protected]

Helen Macfarlane is Head of Active Communities at Edinburgh Leisure


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