First, tell us about Shift.
Shift is a Community Interest Company, based in Tibshelf, which covers Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Our aim is to find ways of shifting community attitudes to exercise and health improvement. In particular, we tend to work in areas where there are low levels of activity and a culture of sedentary behaviour and poor health.
And how does it work?
We train local people and volunteers in communities to set up activity groups that can help other people easily find like-minded hobbyists who want to jog, dance, do yoga and go walking together. Building momentum locally means that the initiative is more likely to continue rather than simply happen as a one-off event.
What inspired you to start the company?
After getting a degree in Sport and Recreation Management, I got a job where there were endless meetings and bureaucracy. I decided that wasn’t my thing – I wanted to make a tangible difference.
Do you think that Crich is an active-community success story?
Definitely. Local volunteers have initiated schemes and raised funds to make Crich a place that lends itself to being active and enjoying wellbeing as part of a daily routine.
Crich is a good example of a community where social infrastructure has been successfully implemented and small changes can make a big difference. The PLACE Project is a great example – it improved facilities on the recreation ground, so there’s now a pathway accessible to all ages, benches where people can meet outdoors, and easy access to fitness and play equipment in the same area.
Other success stories include Fitness Fortnight, which offers taster sessions to introduce people to new activities as well as showcasing existing activity groups.
How do you like to get active around Crich?
For general exercise and enjoyment, I love to go to Shining Cliff Woods. It’s a beautiful, natural environment and a great place for kids to play or build a den. My favourite area is the woods near Top Hagg Lane.
So, what’s the main ‘shift’ you’re trying to encourage?
The focus is particularly on people who find it hard to fit formal exercise into lives that are already busy due to work and family, and trying to get activity to become a normal part of their daily routine.
Do you think physical and mental health are linked?
Definitely. There’s a huge overlap between the two and the focus for us is on socialising as well as exercising because the two go together so well. Infusing activity with a fun social dimension means people are more likely to commit to meet and do it together, and then go on to make it a habit.
Activities can range from formal events, such as the monthly stress-busting run at Kedleston Hall in partnership with the mental-health charity Mind, to informal gatherings like measuring out a mile locally for people to walk after picking up the children from school.
What else are you keen to achieve?
To encourage health professionals to recommend physical activity instead of or alongside drugs and medication. To involve more young leaders and volunteers in helping others enjoy being active in the community. And to strengthen links between Crich and nearby fitness and outdoor centres, such as Lea Green, leisure centres and outdoor spaces.
Want to know more?
Find out about Shift at shift-together.co.uk.
What do you think about exercise gadgets and gear?
They have their place because sportswear and gadgets can be useful, but actually loads of statistics via gadgets can hinder the habit of exercise. Walking 10,000 steps a day sounds like a chore, whereas meeting a friend for a proper walk before coffee sounds more like fun. Wearing special breathable fabric and luminous Lycra can also serve to make exercise something ‘other’ and not an integral part of daily life.
How will you know if attitudes to fitness have ‘shifted’?
I’d like to see empty car parks at school pickup or drop-off because people are going on foot; bike-racks outside shops and workplaces being used regularly, and more head-torch lights jogging along on autumn and winter evenings!