Defying loneliness with radical new approach from fitness experts in Yorkshire

Spring shoots of optimism are beginning to bloom, in easing the solitude for those who may face a little loneliness in the days to come.

Friday, 27th March 2020, 11:45 am
Jenny Drage with sons Lucas and Charlie, as she launches MummyFit Live to keep delivering fitness support for pregnant and new mums.

With fitness experts and clubs in the region among those to have faced a hammerblow amid social distancing, some have swiftly moved online.

There are now fitness, yoga and pilates classes for pregnant women, new mums, and families, and for the over 70s there are YouTube videos to help them keep active.

For while physically distancing, it's still important to socially connect. And for some of the most isolated in this new world, say those behind the motion, this could be a lifeline.

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Abi Hughes, from Leeds, normally trains at MummyFit classes in the gym, but has now joined the Live classes.

"It was a massive decision to close our physical classes," said Jenny Drage, Wakefield founder of the MummyFit franchise which has launched classes online.

"We were sat watching the news, and thinking 'how can we pay our staff, how can we keep the business going? But then we've got all these mums. How can we walk away?

"We felt we had a moral obligation. We know we've made the right decision, we can make a difference."

MummyFit, which launched five years ago, now has franchises all over Yorkshire from Harrogate to Sheffield and Leeds.

The Gilmour family, from Baildon, are among those taking part in the online fitness lessons from MummyFitLive.

It has launched a free live class on a Monday evening alongside its member sessions, subject to appropriate screening, with some of its on-demand resources opened up for free.

"I know how hard it can be, as a new mum, stuck at home, and mentally isolated," says Mrs Drage, who launched the business with husband Alex after the birth of their second son.

"This interaction is creating a huge positivity boost, for everybody involved. It feels like there's a real person, in their living rooms, and that they are a part of something.

"That's what drives this, to keep their spirits up."

Personal trainer James Ellis, of Endure Nutrition, Health and Fitness, who has launched free videos for the elderly to keep active online.

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Ele Barker, in Otley, runs Real Mum Fitness. She launched her first live fitness and pilates classes last week.

There is hilarity, in the toddler interrupting a pilates plank to clamber onboard. In the accompanying child, waving through the camera lense as he spots a friend on the screen.

But more than that, there is a human connection. And while it's healthy to exercise, to keep physically fit, there is so much to be gained, she says, from that simple interaction.

"It all just brings us to being a part of our community," adds Mrs Barker. "We may not be able to socialise, but this certainly helps."

The health benefits of exercise are well recognised, in bringing a boost both physically and mentally, while loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking, research has found.

For over 70s now facing months in isolation, this may be a particular challenge.

Now personal trainer James Ellis, who runs Endure Nutrition, Health and Fitness, is launching free fitness videos for the elderly on Youtube.

It was inspired after his own mother-in-law, already bored at home, asked him to draw up a programme for her.

Mr Ellis, who is also a nutritionist and massage therapist, had seen the bottom of his business drawn swiftly away last week when customers were advised to stay home.

With his wife's IT business stable, he is now home schooling their nine-year-old daughters in Pool-in-Wharfedale while sharing the classes with other families.

"I'll be doing fitness each morning with our twin daughters so I thought why not put it on Facebook and let other people join in," he said.

"I'm not looking to make money, just to try and help people stay occupied. I've said parents can pay what they feel for the family class. If they're struggling, it's free.

"The over 70s ones cost nothing. If it helps a few people stay fit physically and mentally over the coming weeks, I'll be happy."