This question is important because:
People are more likely to stay involved if they feel welcomed and believe that it’s worthwhile coming along. They are more likely to come back if they have fun and feel that the session is manageable. The type of activity, its difficulty and intensity all have a part to play in how much people enjoy it and develop a sense of belonging. They must be given careful consideration. The people you involve in the delivery of your activities will also have a significant impact, particularly for people who have been inactive and may lack confidence.
The University of Strathclyde’s report tells us that projects which adopt a person-centred approach tend to have a greater impact on levels of inactivity than those which simply consider the usual barriers and motivations faced by different types of people.
The evidence suggests that ‘small steps’ approaches (ie setting a series of achievable goals) can be effective in nudging people towards more activity, but only if each step is followed by another step.
You can be most effective at helping inactive people become active, and continue to become more so, by actively involving individuals in developing their own journey. There are three key stages:
- identifying their needs and also why they want to take part
- appreciating the difference their increased activities levels is making for them, and
- getting a sense of what the next stage might be in order to maintain or increase that person’s levels of physical activity.
- Work with people at an activity level that suits them individually, responding to what they say about the activities that interest and motivate them.
- Tailor one-to-one sessions to their unique situation and capabilities. Be ready to adapt as necessary.
- Make sure those involved in delivery are good at relating to other people.
- Consider non-traditional approaches to delivery and, if you can, involve the wider community.
- Stay positive at all times, even if someone’s resolve has slipped or they’ve missed some sessions.
- Don’t expect too much at once or set goals which are too ambitious. Using the ‘small steps’ approach allows lots of smaller successes which helps people stay motivated.
- Support people on a journey through which they become incrementally more active, step-by-step, while acquiring new skills and confidence.
- People who haven’t been active for many years may come along expecting to fail. They may need lots of encouragement to stretch themselves and go beyond what they think they can achieve.
- In group activities be aware that there may be a wide range of levels of fitness. However, people may be unwilling to be moved on to a more advanced group if their main motivation is social or if they have formed a strong bond with the activity leader. Assess each individual’s ability and make it easy for them to participate at their own level.
The Programme that saved my life case study
“I know I owe them my life – I know I will make them both proud as they are both amazing.”
There were key factors in the design of MABA which appear to have helped encourage and sustain participant involvement. These were:
- The continuity of Physical Activity Consultants – having the same instructor from first contact through to class delivery
- Small class sizes to enable greater contact with the instructor and less anxiety for participants
- The 1:1 initial support which allowed participants to develop a relationship with their instructor which encouraged continued attendance
- The anonymity of the classes – the fact that they were not advertised in the leisure centres as classes for people with mental health issues meant that participants were not stigmatised by other people accessing the facilities
- The regular contact by KA Leisure staff with participants to see how they were getting on helped people stay motivated to keep attending
- Flexibility to allow clients to rejoin when their mental health permits.
The routine of the Project and the set times also seems to encourage people to attend. Many participants spoke about the lack of routine in their daily lives and the lack of purpose they have felt. As one participant commented:
“It makes me get up in the morning because I know I have to be somewhere – otherwise I would just stay in bed all day”.
How should we deliver our sessions? PDF