London’s parks; the home of exercise


London is rich with open spaces, 47% of the city is green space and there are over 3000 parks, which means you’re almost never far away from somewhere to be active.

Outdoor space is traditionally associated with running, walking, and team sports like football and cricket. It’s not the first place you’d think of when it comes to group exercise classes, but it could be the ideal setting.

In 2018, London Sport was approached by Our Parks, an initiative that brings group exercise classes, led by experienced, qualified instructors to parks.

They want to ensure their sessions were reaching and inspiring the most inactive Londoners to become active in spaces they felt confident and secure using.

That meant changing the locations that they ran sessions so that they were places that were most likely to appeal to inactive populations.

During the pilot phase of Turn Up Tone Up we selected two different types of parks in the heart of most inactive areas of London.

  • The Lambeth site was in a well-used park, and although it was promoted to inactive participants, it also attracted irregularly active participants (those doing 31-149 minutes of activity per week).
  • The Newham site was more isolated from existing activity and was almost exclusively attended by inactive residents (inactivity is measured as doing less than 30 minutes of activity per week).

Putting aside the obvious improvement to participants activity levels (85% stated an increase since starting the programme), there was also reported improvement to health (85%) and happiness (82%).

Surveying participants every 6 weeks also allowed our parks to identify methods for sustaining activity; 83% of participants said they’d be willing to pay a monthly subscription and 75% were willing to pay per session, however this needs to be explored further.

The results of the pilot allowed Turn Up Tone Up to secure funding to roll-out across 30 more locations in London, using the same methodology to identify those sites.

For each local authority London Sport mapped the location of parks against the inactive population, creating a short-list that Our Parks then refined based on park facilities and accessibility at which point the local authorities were consulted on the final decision adding their own local, invaluable information to the programmes landing in their area.

The programme which was live in all 32 locations (pilot and new parks) by late January 2019 has three objectives for its 30-week funded lifespan.

  1. Deliver a means-tested, and insight led programme of activity across London that transitions inactive individuals into a more active lifestyle.
  2. Deliver a means-tested and insight led programme of activity across London that demonstrably improves the health and wellbeing of participants.
  3. Development of payment plans to create sustainable models of delivery beyond the subsidised period.

London is an incredible city to work in, with over 300 languages spoken, it’s a melting pot of cultures, faiths, backgrounds and experiences and within all that inactivity can be found in every corner.

Testing a programme in these locations across London will help us understand how the model works or doesn’t with different communities.

It allows us to gain, not just information that Our Parks will use to grow their reach across the UK, but also valuable insight that other deliverers can use to adapt their approaches, programmes and delivery to reach inactive Londoners and help them move to leading a more active life and gaining the many benefits that lifestyle brings.

We’ll be sharing learning from Turn Up Tone Up over the coming months as the programme develops.


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