Creating the Right Physical Activity Offer for Young People
Posted: Wed, 25 Jul 2018 13:24 by Mrs Kristen Hall
A major part of my role at Active Norfolk is to help as many disengaged young people aged 14-19 as possible to access regular sport and physical activity across the county. A priority has been to target young people from deprived areas, and in particular those at risk of being or are currently homeless, to help them improve their health and wellbeing through access to regular activity sessions.
Over time, we have learnt that consultation with young people has become increasingly important when planning an intervention to change their activity habits by providing a positive experience. This has certainly been the case in projects established through local youth charities the YMCA and the Anchorage Trust where over 120 inactive young people have been engaged across Norwich and Great Yarmouth.
In Norwich, we established a weekly multi-sport session but after 3 months the young people reported that they were struggling with routine and having to be at a certain place and time every week. They requested an offer that was more flexible around when they could participate. This led to us establishing an arrangement through the OPEN Youth Trust for young people accessing YMCA services to attend a newly opened gym in the daytime during quieter public operating hours.
Participants are awarded for regularly attending the gym through a loyalty card scheme. After 10 sessions they receive a t-shirt and after 20 they get to have a free 1:1 personal training session and a full workout / dietary plan. These goals have proven to be a great incentive to work towards, and is something that participants have told us that they enjoy and ultimately leads them to go to the gym more often.
The young people engaged through the programme have suffered from a mixture of mental health issues, addictions, behaviour disorders and some have been impacted by homelessness. For these young people it had been a struggle to do physical activity, and having a regular, structured activity session that they actually want to attend has made a real difference to their health and wellbeing.
There are also two young mums based at a vulnerable single parents' centre with child care difficulties who have enjoyed the opportunity to take part in regular exercise by having youth worker support connected to this project. This is more evidence of the important role consultation plays in programme structure to help people overcome barriers.
It has been fantastic to see the difference this one project has made to this group of young people who have not had the easiest starts to their lives, and the collaborative network of supportive partners who work together to make these opportunities possible for Norfolk's young people.