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Physical Activity in Libraries

Physical Activity in Libraries

The Healthy Libraries project is a public health initiative which aims to change the way people see their local libraries and utilise its resources to help improve quality of life for local residents. As part of the programme, we became involved to help write physical activity into the programme to ensure regular exercise becomes a monitored priority for Healthy Libraries.

This project profile outlines the programme, and its impact in Norfolk communities.


The aim of our partnership with libraries is to build physical activity into the library service model. Due to being community hubs, libraries are a great resource to interact with the public and encourage people to improve their physical and mental health. Embedding physical activity within library services’ approach enables a wider access to the public and can influence people’s quality of life and reduce the cost of social care in later life.

The project serves as a partnership between Public Health and the Library Service which has more recently involved us providing funding and guidance to help steer and sustain the delivery of the activities.

As part of the partnership, we helped to write physical activity into the Healthy Libraries Workbook that has been created for libraries to refer to in order to keep track of progress being made and the impact activity sessions are having on attendees and the wider community. We provided guidance on the content of the workbook to ensure it is fit for purpose and innovative in its approach. The workbook serves as a valuable evaluation tool for libraries to amend future programmes to better suit the needs and availability of the target group.

Because of the Healthy Libraries programme the relationship between Public Health and the Libraries Service has been strengthened and the Libraries Service has increased its role in helping people take more responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

The Healthy Libraries Workbook

Through our assistance on the Healthy Libraries Workbook, physical activity has become a major section of the tool, complementing the reading element of the workbook.

We found that working in cooperation with the Libraries Service and Public Health to help produce an effective document was the most direct route to the establishment of physical activity within the Healthy Libraries strategy. This work has led to a community librarian and member of the Healthy Libraries Team working directly with us to ensure the aim of physical activity in every Norfolk library becomes a reality.


As a result of our input into the Healthy Libraries project, the following outcomes have been achieved:

  1. Library Managers and librarians have received physical activity delivery training resulting in an upskilled workforce across Norfolk libraries who are able to run, promote and evaluate physical activity sessions within their community libraries.
  2. We have begun mapping activities in Norfolk libraries to discover where there are gaps in provision which could be better served. This process will enable us to help implement physical activity sessions in areas which are not currently served.
  3. Further provision is also being sought to upscale delivery in libraries across Norfolk, particularly in those covered by the SAIL programme, along the North Norfolk coast line. Seed money will be granted to establish delivery.
  4. The integration of physical activity into the Healthy Libraries Workbook and a designated relationship manager to ensure evaluation of the Healthy Libraries project is monitored and acted upon through our input.

Sustainability and Looking Ahead

The sustainability of the Healthy Libraries programme has been achieved through upskilling librarians and library managers and providing them with the resources and ideas to continue to deliver activity sessions. The workforce development programme uses training to establish further provision and their own delivery which is offered by volunteers and paid staff.

The successful implementation of physical activity within the Healthy Libraries Workbook has also made it possible to accurately monitor attendances and impacts of activity sessions in libraries. This information will be used to find out what works in certain libraries and to gather feedback on sessions to make incremental changes to delivery to improve the format of a certain library’s activity programme.

We are undertaking an ongoing mapping process to accurately identify areas of the county where provision of activity sessions is low in order to allocate funding and make physical activity in libraries accessible to more people. By integrating Healthy Libraries with other projects, we will be able to increase funding and secure the future of the Healthy Libraries project for the long term.

Need help?

For more case studies, click here. Alternatively you can get in touch using the contact details below.

Ryan Hughes

Strategic Lead – Older People

Ryan works with partners across a range of sectors to support the development of physical activity opportunities that help more older people to be active.

[email protected]