Healthy body, healthy mind

28th September 2020

Empowering women in the Carlisle area has been the focus of a £5,000 grant from the Abbeyfield Carlisle Society Over 55 Fund, Cumbria Grassroots Fund and the Elizabeth Fell Memorial Trust Fund.

Social enterprise, iCan Health & Fitness CIC runs a female-only fitness centre on Lorne Street in Carlisle, which specialises in working with women who wouldn’t or couldn’t attend traditional fitness facilities. In the last two years it has developed a range of projects including Wheels of Wellness, Rebounding Outreach and a childhood obesity programme.

The funding allowed the organisation to continue and expand its services on offer to current and new members. 17 activities are on offer each week, including hydraulic circuits, rebounding and yoga classes, mental wellbeing support, peer mentoring, outdoor workouts, and online exercise sessions.

Since the grant was awarded, membership has increased to 160 with the aim of reaching 400 by 2022.  “The positive impact is having effects on not only themselves but their friends and family while taking the strain off local NHS services,” said Club Manager, Lisa Dykes.

One member said: “No one is ever lonely at iCan, lots of women have really hard things going on in their lives but we all look out for each other. So you can go thinking ‘I need some company’ and then you get there and someone makes you smile or laugh and before you know it you’ve done a workout and you feel dead proud of yourself.”

“I tried going to a few gyms over the years, but I always felt ashamed and like a failure. My weight, aches, and pains were all just getting worse, then I finally tried iCan. Thank god I did! I can be me, warts, and all, and it’s OK. I’ve laughed and cried in that gym and it’s all been OK. They know me and help me – the real person I am!”

Lisa continues: “iCan is a community facility aiming to empower women, as well as men and children through outreach projects, to live healthier, happier lives through exercise, mental wellbeing and peer support.

“We have still maintained regular contact with our existing members throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, even though we had to close our facility. We have kept in touch via weekly zoom coffee mornings, workouts three times a week in local parks, and the production of our 120 page live Well Guide, which was delivered to all members for free in April. Staff have frequent conversations to more vulnerable members on the phone and over Skype to support their mental health needs over this challenging and very stressful time.”

A recent social impact evaluation firm found that for every £1 invested into the gym, users and the wider community could get £12.50 in social return.