Photo: Neerav Bhatt
London has gone on a massive health kick in recent months and in the blur of all the Yoga, Pilates and Barre studios that have sprung up like daisies, one thing that has cropped up is the running group, The GoodGym.
This London based initiative encourages members to do good deeds, either individually or in a group, whilst also completing their run. These good deeds could be anything from visiting an elderly neighbour to donating some food to the local food bank. The organization began back in 2008, focussing on the community of Tower Hamlets and has since grown to cover: Lambeth, Islington, Brent, Newham, Westminster and many more areas across London and even Bristol. Sadly, Waltham Forest is yet to get their own version of The GoodGym however that is not for lack of trying.
According to research carried out by Age UK, over 1 million people aged 65 and over feel lonely and 41% say that their TV or pet is their main companion. This disheartening news is the main motivation for the founders of The GoodGym and it got me thinking about the community within Walthamstow. Due to the transient nature of London life and the booming rental market within the area, fewer people spend time getting to know their neighbours, and life behind closed doors can be pretty isolating at times. Luckily, the borough already has some wonderful initiatives in place that encourage integration within the community such as the food bank Eat or Heat which hosts village fetes to gain donations and the free exercise scheme Our Parks which operates from Lloyd Park amongst other locations. It is just a case of uniting the two in order to boost wellbeing within the community.
Whilst The GoodGym is an innovative concept in the exercise world, it raises a number of questions about the society in which we live today. Have we really come to the point where people need to be encouraged by an organisation to do good within our local community? Whatever happened to the love thy neighbour mentality that was drilled into us at primary school? The initiative requires 5 founding members, an army of 100 runners (64 people are currently registered in Walthamstow) and £25,000 start up fees to even get off the ground. Whilst there are many positive reasons to validate the necessity of such high start up figures, surely all charity begins at home?
So, until Waltham Forest is blessed with the green light to begin a GoodGym, here are some helpful steps for incorporating a bit of goodness into your weekly workout.
1) Pump some tin
On the last Friday of every month, Eat or Heat asks locals to donate a tin of food to one of their collection points. Why not create mini dumbbells from two cans and run to your nearest collection point?
2) Got green fingers?
Why not take a run around Lloyd park and afterwards stretch out your tired muscles with a spot of gardening. The Lloyd Park volunteer gardening group meet every Thursday between 10am-1pm near the Forest Road gate to help keep the new William Morris garden looking pretty.
3) Get involved with community Monday at the Hornbeam Cafe.
Community Monday at the Hornbeam cafe is the perfect way to begin volunteering in the area with a packed schedule of events taking place once a month. Each month the schedule changes so one month you may be scrubbing floors with natural cleaners and the next may be spent making a pot of soup to serve to the local community. Think of it as speed dating with volunteering.
4) Have a clear out
We all have items saved away for a rainy day that just end up gathering dust at the back of a bookshelf. Take this opportunity to clear out all your unwanted possessions and make regular trips to your local charity shop. Even magazines can be given a new lease of life by donating them to doctors surgeries or schools. Think about how many extra calories it would burn if you carried a batch every fortnight.
5) Volunteer at your local care home
Care homes are not just for the elderly and many are always looking for a spare pair of hands to help with little jobs such as washing up or even talking to the patients. If you fancy a more hands on voulunteering opportunity this could be for you. Combine it with a power walk to and from the home so that you still get your aerobic exercise.
Words: Grace Molan
Featured Image: Gary Knight