Anji Andrews, Area Activator at GoodGym Newcastle, spoke to us about the power of GoodGym, and how local people are giving back to their local community whilst staying fit and healthy at the same time.
What is GoodGym, and how does it support local communities across the country?
GoodGym is a national charity that combines doing good deeds in local communities with fitness (walking, running, cycling). There are over 50 GoodGyms across the country, with Newcastle being the furthest North.
How long has GoodGym been established in Newcastle upon Tyne?
We started in April 2018, so we are almost five years old.
What attracts people to be part of the GoodGym community?
GoodGym is an easy way to make a difference where you live. You can spend an hour or two here and there – with no minimum commitment – and for free, doing good things and exploring where you live.
Many people tell me the social aspect is very appealing too. In a world still quite disconnected (the continuation of home/hybrid working for example), GoodGym brings magical, valuable connection to those you may not otherwise meet.
It’s a valuable way to develop or improve fitness too, as you are putting your physical self into making a difference.
When did GoodGym start working with Urban Green Newcastle to help care for Newcastle’s parks and green spaces?
We were approached by Urban Green Newcastle when we were still fairly new. It feels like we have always worked together!
What types of activities do you do in the parks?
It’s always a surprise as the tasks are so varied, physical and fun. My members will tell me the most memorable tasks are those that are physically tough (moving rocks in Kenton Park springs to mind!). It’s a meaningful workout and a buzz you’d never get in the gym.
We’ve planted, cleared paths, weeded, painted gates and fences, and picked up so many bags of litter I wouldn’t like to count. Urban Green Newcastle tasks are a firm favourite with the Newcastle GoodGym community.
How can people get involved?
All of our sessions are listed on our website www.goodgym.org/newcastle, and you can usually find Urban Green Newcastle sessions listed on weekends. It’s free to get involved and you can do a variety of tasks with us.
Do people need a good level of fitness to join GoodGym in Newcastle’s parks?
Absolutely not. There is something for everyone, ranging from heavy lifting and physical work – such as lopping branches and shifting earth – to a leisurely stroll with a rubbish bag!
Why do people volunteer their free time with GoodGym? What are some of the benefits?
I think it’s three main reasons: making a difference, moving their bodies, and connecting with other people. The benefits to mental wellbeing, as well as the physical, are astounding. GoodGym can be transformative on a number of levels.
Why do you think it’s important for people to have access to nature and green spaces?
The chemical hit we get from being in nature is underestimated; that literal physical connection to the outdoors is life changing. I think we sometimes get bogged down in complexities and green spaces remind us that the best things in life are free and full of fresh air.
What’s your favourite park in Newcastle, and why?
Don’t make me choose! If I had to narrow it down it would be two: Exhibition Park for that calm within the chaos of the city, and the hidden gem that is Hodgkin Park. The vast amount of space overlooking the River Tyne is just brilliant.
To find out more about GoodGym in Newcastle, visit www.goodgym.org/newcastle.