Sarah Frost, the Founder of dance fitness brand XO CIZE tells EMD UK about the benefits of exercise for chronic health conditions 

In 2022, social prescribing will continue to be a focus for both the healthcare and fitness industries as we see a shift in collective thinking around more holistic treatment for long-term health conditions.

How exercise can be used to manage Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Sarah has first-hand experience of the benefits of exercise in managing her Type 1 Diabetes. ‘It helps me to regulate my blood sugar levels. If my blood sugars are a little higher than I want them to be, I can simply go for a walk, and this brings them down. When I do interval training with big powerful bursts of energy or sprinting for example, this can cause my blood glucose to spike first then drop hours later. This demonstrates how much impact exercise can have on blood sugar levels and therefore how exercise can be used as a really useful management tool.’

‘Diabetes is a very complex condition, particularly if you are managing your condition with insulin. It is important to remember that Type 2 Diabetes is different to Type 1 Diabetes. Type 2 Diabetes can be more effectively managed, prevented and even reversed through diet, exercise, and weight loss.’

Exercise and mental health

Exercise has also had a positive impact on Sarah’s mental health and ultimately inspired her to become a qualified Exercise to Music (now Group Training to Music), Exercise Referral and Pilates teacher along with being a qualified nutritionist. ‘As a teenager, exercise gave me great relief from my feelings of anxiety and depression. I wanted to find a way to help people enjoy exercise and not dread it so they would also be able to experience the benefits too.’

Encouraging people with long-term health conditions to stay active

Since the start of the pandemic, both physical and mental health have been thrust into the spotlight. Campaigns like We Are Undefeatable, funded by Sport England and National Lottery, have been supporting those with long-term health conditions to stay active. Messaging is positive and encouraging which is something that Sarah believes the industry needs to incorporate more. ‘We see far too many fear-provoking methods of trying to get people to do exercise, but I think we need to steer away from the negatives and embrace the positives. I think people become overwhelmed with the ‘necessity’ for taking part in regular physical activity which, when it is a requirement, somehow makes it a chore.’

Social media also plays a part in perpetuating stereotypes of what it means to be ‘fit’. ‘So many images suggest that only ‘fit’ people do exercise. We need to change the narrative and the images to appeal to a wider audience. The people in the community that would benefit from exercise for their general health need encouragement, support, motivation and to feel good.’

Changes aren’t limited to just the fitness industry. Sarah reports clients having experiences with ‘medical professionals that impact them negatively, creating more barriers and being counterproductive.’

XO CIZE is helping remove barriers to exercise

XO CIZE dance fitness aims to provide a fun and judgement-free space for participants to stay active. Sarah explains ‘XO CIZE is an empowering, effective, full-body workout for all fitness levels. The workout is geared towards a wide audience and engages even the most reluctant exerciser as it is doable, and the environment is exciting rather than intimidating. I like to think of XO CIZE as the next generation of Exercise to Music and the format of the class is a cardio section, followed by a light dumbbell section and finally some mat work.’

‘XO CIZE has a unique teaching style which makes it extremely entertaining and enjoyable. We also aim to make our instructors’ job as easy as possible. We recognise how much work and time goes into planning and delivering popular classes to a wide audience which is why we offer excellent resources and a library of routines with unique cue sheets and ongoing support.’

‘We teach people how to exercise properly which helps to build their confidence and strip down barriers or negative beliefs about their lack of ability. It leaves them feeling empowered and hungry for more. It also makes life easier for the instructor when they can see everyone doing things correctly and safely at their own level.’

The brand itself reinforces the importance of self-care. ‘The name ‘XO’ comes from the idea that X.O. is a symbol known as a kiss and a hug, it’s friendly, loving, caring suggesting that everyone should give themselves a regular dose of love and care. We strive to use positive encouragement rather than scary facts about not doing exercise. Our mission is to inject long term and regular fitness habits into the community to improve overall health and wellbeing by removing barriers, empowering people, and making exercise fun – prioritising enjoyment over fitness!’

Sarah’s top tips for instructors

Sarah has some top tips for instructors that are starting the process of creating their own brand. ‘You need to have discipline and be organised. I find using lists and reminders on my computer (which syncs to my phone) to manage my tasks useful. I also find it very helpful listening to self-development audiobooks when walking the dogs. I am currently listening to High Performance by Jake Humphrey and Professor Damian Hughes which is fabulously motivating! I book out time in my diary to rest and have time out. I can get so consumed with work because it is my passion, but it is so important to manage your time so as not to burn yourself out!’

Sarah believes it is important for anyone that is considering a career as a group fitness instructor to be an ‘eternal student’. She advised that you should ‘ensure you find good course providers and be realistic. There is no rush. Take your time, embrace learning and enjoy the journey.’

‘You never stop learning and every experience, good and bad, is invaluable. Every mistake or fall is there to help you grow. Often people who become an instructor are caring in nature and it can be easy to put everyone else first and forget about yourself. It is important to look after yourself too!’

‘I now know many people in this industry, and you would be very surprised at how many have experienced imposter syndrome. Don’t let social media intimidate you. Believe in yourself. Your passion for people and authentic self will shine through. People want ‘real’ people to help motivate and inspire them.’

Find out more about XO CIZE

If you like the sound and ethos of XO CIZE you can find more information about their next XO CIZE Workout Instructor Training course taking place on Friday 11th February 2022. By applying now you can access the trial offer of £169 and claim 50% back from the Sports England Bursary (check if you are eligible for Open Bursary Eligibility – EMD UK).

Learn more about how group exercise and health systems work together by listening to our free webinar with speakers from Sport England, Active Partnerships, and The Active Wellbeing Society here.