A simple strategy to tackle obesity through group fitness is activating new communities and helping Australia’s top developers to create connected communities that people love, says dual Olympian Jane Flemming OAM.
Live Life Get Active, or LLGA, is the brainchild of Amanda King, who bought in her friend Jane Flemming to launch the program in February 2014.
LLGA is a not-for-profit charity that has introduced free outdoor exercise camps to more than 165 communities nationwide. More than 72,000 people have signed up to take part in the program’s yoga, active training and boxing sessions.
King, LLGA’s chief executive officer, devised the program to address Australia’s obesity epidemic. Upwards of 14 million Australians are either overweight or obese and King, points to “shocking” research which finds Australia “is fast becoming the fattest country in the world per capita”.
The cascading health and wellbeing impacts of obesity are firmly established: type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety and social isolation among them.
But what started as an initiative to tackle obesity is also a clever activation strategy.
“What we’ve come to completely and utterly understand is that we build community,” Flemming says. “We deliver intangibles: happiness, laughter, friendship, trust.”
There's no joining or class fee for LLGA’s daily activity camps. There is “no yelling, no whistles, no music” and the “no pain, no gain” mentality is mercifully absent, Flemming explains. Participants do get professionally tailored nutritional programs and free face-to-face coaching as part of the offering.
Flemming calls the participants “gym rejectors and sports atheists,” as many people who join LLGA “find gym environments and organised sport intimidating, because they haven’t done anything for years”.
“Ours is an egalitarian environment – it doesn’t matter where you come from, how much money you have, what language you speak, your size or your age. One of the delightful things we’ve seen is the wonderful cross-generational interaction that you can’t find anywhere else,” Flemming says.
“The idea of changing behaviour can be quite daunting to people, so we really focus on making our classes non-intimidating and welcoming. It’s not just about kilograms or centimetres lost – it’s about the fact they’ve made friends. People share their own stories and connect. And very quickly it becomes a part of their daily routine – one they look forward to,” King adds.
Frasers Property Australia has launched 22 camps around Australia including two in industrial sites. One of their residential camps is Merri Creek Park in Wallan, about an hour’s drive north of Melbourne’s CBD. The camp has been running since June 2016.
“Some days we have 30 people attending, and they all bring their children who sit on the sidelines, cheer their parents on, mimic them lifting weights or score them for style,” King laughs.
The children gain a real-world lesson in health and fitness, while a simple exercise class has strengthened the sense of community. “It’s a connection strategy,” King adds.
Not all the corporate partners are big developers either. Trifalga, for example, is a family business that started its partnership with LLGA at one “small shopping centre” in Sydney’s Beaumont Hills. “They were passionate about engaging with the community and making a long-term commitment,” King says.
LLGA has been recognised by the Green Building Council of Australia for encouraging healthy and active living in communities and is eligible for Green Star points. King says this recognises that sustainability is “no longer just about the green factor – it’s about the health and wellbeing of the community”. For a community to be truly sustainable, “developers must not only build communities but help give them life”.
Stockland funds 22 camps across residential communities, retirement living and retail settings. Stockland is an “amazing champion, that has been there from the beginning” says King.
The developer’s McKeachie’s Run camp, the first established by LLGA, is found in Maitland north of Newcastle. The camp was up and running while houses were still coming out of the ground, and “there wasn’t much for residents to do,” King explains.
“Within two weeks we had 167 members. Today we have 700 members from around the region – and people have become incredibly good friends. As a group they have lost a combined total of 500 kilograms of weight, but more importantly they’ve gained friendships and connections.
“We know from our data that 14 per cent of the members of this camp had no network of family or friends when they joined us – and we helped to create new connections by providing an outlet for healthy fun!”
Looking at the big picture, Stockland has attracted 8,000-plus people to LLGA’s camps, and these people have lost a combined weight of 7,000 kilograms and 8,000 centimetres. What’s more, their mood has lifted and they feel great about life.
“Can you imagine the effect on the health of communities if we had a camp in every community or in every suburb?”
Hear from Jane Flemming OAM at the National Retirement Living Summit, 20-22 November on the Gold Coast. Tickets are selling fast, so register your place today.