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Versatile equipment allows operator to create active environments that meet local needs –

Brimhams Active has invested in versatile functional fitness equipment from health, wellness and innovation specialist Ethics Leisure to deliver frontline health and wellness sessions to people living with medical conditions as well as mainstream clients, while one of its key leisure centres is closed for redevelopment.

Brimhams Active is in the process of transitioning from a conventional leisure provider into a leading community focussed health and wellbeing service. As part of its successful Active Health programme, the trust collaborates with GPs, NHS services, public health and social care partners across Harrogate to run targeted wellbeing programmes that meet local priorities and deliver improved health outcomes. These range from falls prevention and weight management programmes to stroke and cancer rehabilitation schemes.

Harrogate has an increasingly elderly population; 6.6 per cent of the district’s residents are aged over 80 compared to 4.9 per cent nationally, with a forecasted 49 per cent increase in people (17,800) aged over 65 by 2035.*

Maintaining its active wellbeing services while its venue, Harrogate Hydro, undergoes an ambitious £28m renovation project, was critical. To minimise disruption of delivery, Brimhams Active invested in Total Gym equipment from Ethics Leisure, one of the leading health and wellness brands in the UK and Ireland.

“Our demographic is not the typical gym user and when Harrogate Hydro closed we wanted something that would help us to keep our group exercise offer going so we could retain members, while serving clients with medical conditions and additional needs,” says Joanne Bogan, Brimhams Active’s Health & Wellbeing Manager.

The community health and wellbeing company invested in six of Ethics Leisure’s Total Gym Encompass machines, becoming the first and only organisation in the Harrogate district to offer the functional training solution. Located at Fairfax Wellbeing Hub, the bodyweight training equipment is compact and portable so staff can quickly and easily wheel it into place before each session to create the ideal active environment for participants.

“The Total Gym equipment is so effective and efficient. It has allowed us to retain existing members while the Hydro is being redeveloped, but because it’s something completely different for Harrogate we have also attracted new users. We get so much out of the equipment, it’s brilliant. I can’t praise it enough,” says Bogan.

The low impact system works on an incline and relies on body weight resistance to strengthen muscles making it suitable for all abilities, including those living with long term conditions or needing rehabilitation.

Highly flexible, the equipment allows for more than 250 exercises at multiple resistance levels enabling the operator to run targeted sessions that meet the needs of its clients. The solution can be used for Pilates, yoga, strength and sculpt classes to prehab, rehab and physio sessions and more.

“The kit is so versatile that we can offer HIIT classes through to rehabilitation sessions, and everything in between,” says Ian Salvin, Health and Wellbeing Development Manager at Brimhams Active.

Brimhams Active runs Total Gym branded classes, dedicated sessions for teenagers and also integrates the equipment with existing referral and rehab programmes, such as stroke rehabilitation and neuroactive sessions.

“The machines control the user’s action and range of movement to protect their technique, so they can exercise safely whatever their ability. They allow people to perform exercises they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. For example, we have high functioning stroke patients who can join our Total Gym classes because they are supported by the kit. It negates a lot of their restrictions and they have made such good progress,” says Salvin.

One stroke rehabilitation participant, Dave, is significantly affected down one side and had been unable to do any squat exercises because of lower limb weakness and muscular atrophy, despite these being the very exercises needed to improve his leg strength.

The Total Gym’s inclined glide board reduces the effective bodyweight load on Dave’s legs, allowing him to perform squats for the first time since his stroke, says Salvin.

“The look of excitement on his face was a picture. Dave can now do squats for more than 90 seconds and has recently started doing single-leg squats on his affected-side leg, which has had a huge impact on his leg stamina and strength, as well as his quality of life.”

The team now offer a specialist rehabilitation/exercise referral class catering for a small number of participants with a range of knee, shoulder and lumber spine musculoskeletal conditions.

“They have all been able to improve their strength, stamina and joint range of movement because the Total Gym machines allow simple progressions of movement and load for the whole body,” says Salvin.

Such has been the success of the functional fitness solution that Brimhams Active is offering extra classes to meet demand and will be investing in more equipment at other Brimhams Active facilities to create an estate wide Total Gym offer.

“The highly functional, inclusive and impactful properties of the Total Gym equipment makes it an ideal offering for Brimhams Active because we are committed to meeting the needs of all customers no matter their ability and health and wellbeing goals. The equipment is highly regarded by our instructors and customers alike, and is serving to successfully drive and retain participation,” says Mark Tweedie, Managing Director of Brimhams Active.

Andy Gill, founder and CEO of Ethics Leisure, says: “Bodyweight training is one of the world’s leading health and fitness trends, ranking third globally and first in Europe in the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) list of trends for 2023. At a time when public leisure is being urged to pivot to become an active wellbeing service, Brimhams Active is an inspiring example of how to harness the popularity of bodyweight resistance training to create active environments that cater for all demographics whatever their health and ability. Versatility is vital for providers who are serious about providing a sustainable and quality provision to impact health inequalities in line with Sport England’s latest recommendations – and functional fitness solutions like Total Gym provide that versatility.”