OPINION: Exercise and helping others can aid our mental health - Karen Weaver, Harrogate and District Community Action

It’s widely known and reported that exercise and helping others has amazing positive effects on our mental health.

You only have to flick through magazines or browse social media to see countless adverts and memes extolling the virtues of a ‘healthy body, healthy mind’.

But how do you fit exercise and helping out into our already busy lives?

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A new project being piloted in Harrogate is aiming to do just that – to create a team of local people who meet to be social and active while giving time to help the town’s people and spaces.

Community Fit was launched last month and now meets weekly on Wednesday evenings at 6pm to run one-two miles to a charity, school, community or environmental group where they help out for around an hour, before making their way back to the meeting point for 8pm.

Tasks could be anything from sorting donations to moving furniture or tree planting. 

Most importantly, participants don’t have to be fast or sporty; runs are at an easy pace and nobody gets left behind with the emphasis on the social side of the group and making a difference in the community.

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The Harrogate district is very lucky to have a number of free or low-cost social running groups to help local residents get active.

Between the three local parkruns, Early Bird Run Crew, Fit Mums & Friends and the various running clubs, there’s a friendly welcome for people of any ability in our very active running community.

Community Fit is another great example of the voluntary sector collaborating to create new opportunities for local people.

It is being run by North Yorkshire Sport and Harrogate & District Community Action, with the backing of an NHS grant received via Community First 

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Since the project was launched the group has already given over 31 hours of help to community groups and schools including the Pinewoods Conservation Group and Saltergate Primary School.

There are exciting plans for the future with a wider range of activities at different times, including helping individuals with one off jobs in their homes or gardens and introducing bike rides and walks and a regular all age family session.

Anyone thinking of joining but wants to find out more can go along to a drop in social evening at Crowne Plaza on Wednesday, July 27 from 6.30-8pm.

With free refreshments, a free raffle (just for turning up!) with great prizes and the chance to meet some of the other existing and potential ‘FitStars’, it’s a chance to find out more without running up a hill!

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The team would love to hear from community groups who need a hand with a one-off unskilled task that five to fifteen volunteers could get involved with on an evening.

They would also love to welcome some more ‘FitStars’ to join them and the summer is a great time to start.

Add in the sunshine we’ve been experiencing and you’ve got the perfect combination of a much-needed boost in vitamin D, exercise and the feel-good factor of helping out.

Triple endorphins guaranteed!

You don’t have to join every week and most equipment is provided.

Find out more on Facebook and Instagram at @wearecommunityfit or by emailing [email protected] or calling 01423 813090.

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