Margaret Peggie OBE, Vice President FLexercise, reflects on our journey so far

Following the news that EMD UK is one of Sport England’s partners to receive £5 million of funding to help level up access to physical activity, Margaret Peggie OBE, Vice President FLexercise, one of EMD UK’s founder partners, has shared her thoughts with us.

“I realised that this is a very positive legacy for the people and organisations who created EMD UK in 2006.   I should know as I was one of them!

It is generally understood that group exercise began in this country with Jane Fonda and aerobics in the 1980s.  Not a bit of it!  The original pioneers 50 years earlier were the Women’s League of Health & Beauty (now FLexercise) followed soon after by the Keep Fit Association and then Medau Movement.  Hard to believe now, but their classes to the popular music of the day were revolutionary and very, very popular.  Like most of the grass roots sports activities of the time, they were run largely by volunteers, supported by minimally paid employees, and still are.   Competitors to begin with, the arrival of aerobics and the commercial fitness industry made life more difficult and pushed them closer together.  By the late 1990s they worked jointly on developing a national qualification for teacher training.  At that time Sport England, who had been providing funding for them separately, encouraged the idea of coming closer together into a partnership believing it would achieve greater value.

They funded a feasibility study in 2004 which led to the incorporation of the Exercise, Movement & Dance Partnership (now EMD UK) in 2006.  I can picture myself in the room where we were debating what we should call this new creation of ours.  So how did we arrive at the name?  Each of the three organisations sees itself as occupying a slightly different place on the exercise – movement – dance spectrum (physical – aesthetic – artistic).  All, of course, are physical activities but with different emphases on the aesthetic and artistic elements of human movement.  Put very simply, FLexercise focuses more on the physical, Medau on the aesthetic and KFA on the artistic.

While we might have enjoyed the introspection which got us there, it is of no interest to the people who happen to chance upon our classes.   What matters above all to would-be participants is that they have a range of diverse and accessible opportunities to choose from and can find one or several that they enjoy and which keep them active.   Gone are the days when people expect to ‘belong’ to one particular form and stay with it to the exclusion of all else, as was the case when the founder partners started.

Over the years EMD UK has widened its focus away from the specific activities of its founders to become the national governing body for group exercise.  The aim is to support instructors ‘to be the best that they can be’ and more than that, to ensure that it ‘continues to inspire people of all ages and abilities to take part in physical activity’.  This of course is exactly what the founder partners FLexercise, Keep Fit Association and Medau Movement set out to do all those years ago.  They may not now occupy centre stage in the provision of group exercise but they certainly started it all and ensured that from their midst sprung a new organisation able to take their mission forward into the 21st century.  A legacy to be proud of indeed. “

Thank you, Margaret, for these very interesting reflections on our development – and where we’re heading.