How fitness can create an online community

Another of the tackling inequalities-focussed projects supported by EMD UK is the launch of The Club by member organisation Move It or Lose It.  The project was made possible by funding through Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund, which was allocated £20m of National Lottery money.  In this next in our series of guest blogs, Julie Robinson, CEO – Move it or Lose it Ltd, tells us more about The Club and how fitness can create an online community.

‘Move it or Lose it specialise in fitness for the over 60s and those with long term health conditions. As part of a project to tackle inequalities in fitness, Move it or Lose it has launched The Club, a new online community for older adults to exercise and socialise with others. Club members can stay connected and reduce social isolation whilst staying active, with both seated and standing exercises, and also exercise their minds with live events and hobbies like book club!

We all know that feeling of belonging and cohesion that comes from being part of a group. It’s what draws us to return to our weekly exercise classes and offers far more than just exercise. The sense of community – or common unity – is a really powerful draw and helps attendance, adherence, and motivation.

So how do we replicate this sense of community when we can’t get together in person?

Understandably, many people think there’s no way an online group exercise class can ever replicate the fun and camaraderie you get when you’re working out in the same space, yet those who give it a try are often pleasantly surprised. Many have been nudged into trying a Zoom class and now embrace the online world, helping them to stay fit and stay connected.

Technophobia is a barrier that stands in the way for some, but with a friendly instructor to guide you through the process, it soon becomes the norm. One of my clients recently said, “I’m no good with tech and really didn’t think I’d manage to do this, but it’s a bit like getting into the sea when it’s cold – once you’re in it’s lovely!”

For some, coming to a group exercise session is about socialising and fitness – in that order. Online classes are surprisingly good at bringing people together with small groups being able to chat before and after the session. Instead of rushing off after the class to get home or the instructor having to empty the room for the next group, you can really get to know each other and build up the same sense of rapport and friendship. And because you can join in from anywhere in the country, you get to ‘meet’ people from other areas too.

Most people need encouragement to exercise regularly and the online class provides this in a way that just watching a routine on YouTube can’t. We get motivation from each other as well as from our trainer and that support is just as tangible online.

Most of us also work much harder when we exercise in a group; it’s easy to stop when it’s just you but with the support of your trainer and other group members, you can keep going for longer and work harder than you would alone.

With the fitness world having to go online during lockdown, trainers have become really creative about using household objects for exercise equipment and opened up the world of working out at home. Now the kitchen is a great place to do weights with tins of beans, or balance exercises using the counter-top for support and this helps us to build activity into everyday living, which has to be one silver lining of lockdown!

Another benefit is the online session is ideal for those with long term health conditions who are unable (or very reluctant) to go out for fear of getting infected with coronavirus. Lyn, aged 62, said, “I daren’t go out, and even after lockdown I’d like to continue with the online sessions. I really look forward to our weekly get-togethers and can relax and enjoy seeing everyone without worrying. In fact, I think I’m fitter now I’m actually exercising more often.”

The online fitness class also gives us a sense of purpose, something we all need but which is particularly important for those who have retired and miss the structure of the working day. And in the absence of face-to-face classes, virtual classes can really lift our spirits. It’s not just the endorphins following a workout, it’s knowing we’re all in this together and can help each other through so we stay safe, strong, fit, and healthy.

For live exercise classes and fitness on demand, see