Sara Kemp: Are you a fit mum? If not, get active over the winter and feel the benefit

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As a fitness instructor at Edinburgh Leisure, I know winter can be a real motivation killer. It’s cold, it’s dark, so it’s perfectly understandable why people let their health and fitness slide and instead opt to cosy up on the couch.

Sadly, we all know this isn’t doing us any good in the long run. Being ­physically active not only helps us feel and function better, but it helps reduce our risk of multiple diseases, and raises our overall quality of life. Moving is good for us.

Sara Kemp is a Fitness Instructor and Active Communities Development Officer with Edinburgh Leisure

Sara Kemp is a Fitness Instructor and Active Communities Development Officer with Edinburgh Leisure

So here’s some easy tips to boost your motivation during the winter months.

First, focus on how you feel when you are finished. The darker months can affect our mood and leave us feeling low. Being active is one of the best ways to combat those feelings as it releases endorphins that make us feel good. So, when the couch calls, focus on how much better you’ll feel when you’ve finished exercising. Use that thought and reach for the trainers – it will be worth it.

Secondly, find a buddy to get active with. Solo exercise can be a challenge. Why not make plans with friends and family to help keep you accountable and motivated? Spending time with loved ones is fun and you can bask in the fact you’re supporting each other to stay active.

Finally, do something you love.Physical activity shouldn’t be a chore. You don’t need to run a marathon or spend hours in the gym if that’s not your thing. The secret to sticking with an activity is finding one you love. Love a bit of Strictly, then find a dance class. Enjoy martial arts, then try Taekwondo. Craving relaxation, then find a local yoga class.

However, I’m also aware that for some people motivation isn’t the only barrier preventing them from being active. Currently, one in five households in Edinburgh are affected by poverty, with the life expectancy in the city’s wealthiest areas 21 years higher than the poorest areas.

A recent sportscotland study found that 74 per cent of Scottish mums do not take part in any physical ­activity or sport. This is heightened in ­areas of deprivation, where mums and their children are leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles.

Mums on lower incomes often face barriers to being active such as the cost of using leisure facilities, sports clubs and coaching, no childcare and lack of time for themselves, lack of awareness about local opportunities, lack of knowledge about how to be active and live well, lack of confidence, and no one to get active with

As a charity, Edinburgh Leisure is passionate about creating opportunities for everyone to lead healthier, more active lives.

Our Active Communities ­programme delivers a range of projects that support people most in need by removing the barriers they face to getting active.

We’ve recently launched a brand-new project called Active Mums, which is funded by NHS Lothian’s Health Improvement Fund.

Based at Leith Victoria Swim ­Centre, it aims to help small groups of mums on lower incomes incorporate physical activity into their lives and ensure that their children enjoy active childhoods.

We’re working in partnership with Dr Bell’s Family Centre, a charity ­supporting families in Leith, to reach those mums most in need of our ­support; whilst ensuring free childcare is in place during group activities.

We recently welcomed our first ten mums to the project. Some of the mums were active before ­having ­children and struggled to get back to it. For others, it was the first time they had done any kind of activity. ­However, they all expressed that they felt isolated, needed support and wanted to be good role models for their children.

The mums are participating in eight weeks of free group fitness sessions led by qualified instructors. Activities range from dancing, outdoor boot camps, circuits, swimming and much more.

Each session is followed by a wellbeing workshop over a cuppa to help them develop strategies to stay active. The mums also receive an Edinburgh Leisure card, which gives them six months access to gym, swim and ­fitness classes for £1 to encourage them to continue exercising together as friends. Finally, the group takes part in six active play dates with their children to focus on how they can support them to enjoy active childhoods and make healthier choices for life.

It was lovely to meet our first group of mums. I’m really looking forward to seeing how they feel at the end of their journey and understand more about how the project has empowered them and their families to lead healthier, more active lives. We’ve made a great start with our first group and we have enough funding to run a further three Active Mum courses in other parts of the city in 2019.

If you’d like more information about the project, call 0131 458 2260. If you’d like further details about getting active with Edinburgh Leisure, visit www.edinburghleisure.co.uk

So, we need to face facts, winter is here. Take inspiration from our ten mums, stay motivated, stay active and feel better. One thing’s for sure – spring is just around the corner.

Sara Kemp is a fitness instructor and Active Communities development officer with Edinburgh Leisure.