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01228 819101

Unit 18, The Maltings, Bridge St, Carlisle CA2 5SR


The iCan way of thinking- ACRE Rural communities project

In 2019 iCan was kindly funded £9856 by ACRE (Action with communities in Rural England) directly granted through ACTion with Communities in Cumbria, to develop a pilot programme to increase activity levels and improve social isolation in Rural Cumbria. This would be called iCan be Active.

Working with rural communities and the locals who live in them, we found that their biggest struggle was accessing sociable exercise and health classes directly in their area without the need to travel and finding “a class” that all ages could attend. It was decided for this project, we would aim to help people who, for whatever reason, had disengaged, or had lost the motivation to maintain health and wellbeing, from all ages 5+ and with a range of abilities.

The aim was to provide 6 week courses to 6 rural communities, hoping to attract 10 members of that community per session. Beneficiaries would receive:

  • Initial consultation and introduction: A group chat about what the beneficiaries needed, their individual goals, and how they feel about themselves and their physical wellbeing and how iCan Health and Fitness could support them.
  • 6 weeks of 30 minute Rebounding classes- handlebars provided for those less steady on their feet.
  • After the rebounding sessions 30 minutes of guided conversation about a health and wellbeing subject- The topics would be suggested by qualified professionals but could be changed or a new topic suggested by attendees.
  • Weight and measurement support on weeks 1 and 6 of the project.
  • iCan’s Live Well Guide- A dynamic and interactive guide to take home and share with the family, included were tips on the conversations had in class, recipes, portion control guides, mental wellbeing support and coping strategies, weigh and measurement tips and exercises and stretches to do at home.
  • Before and after photos (if requested) so the beneficiary can see their improvement throughout their experience at iCan.

3 iCan Member mentor- volunteers helped to create, produce and deliver the project.

iCan regularly used social media and website posts to promote the project and flyers and posters were distributed to the community centres we would be visiting, local shops, pubs and with community support some letter box deliveries.

Support came from Lorrainne Smyth- Chief Executive- ACTion with Communities in Cumbria and Later Russell Maddams- Active Cumbria, Cumbria County Council


Success of the project is based on the following stats:

Achieving and succeeding the number of beneficiaries- Aim- 60, Actual- 62. 

62 Female 0 male. Age range:  15-69 years.

Communities visited: Askham, Cliburn, Hayton, Thursby, Wetheral and Longtown.

A number of participants joined iCan after their 6 week course- Aim-0, Actual- 6

All participants were asked to complete a simple questionnaire based on their current health and wellbeing and how they felt at the end of the project.  59% reported better mental health, 72% felt their physical health had improved.

Reasons for attending: There are a number of reasons, why participants attend the courses.  Some were overweight and wanted to lose weight, others had balance, slips and falls issues or lack of confidence on their feet, but the overwhelming feedback was that almost all of the participants felt they needed exercise classes in their area and were thrilled to try something new. 12 participants said they had previously felt socially isolated

Qualitative feedback:  Feedback from participants has been very positive.They particularly like the sense of and being part of a supportive community.  “The atmosphere presented at “class”  was warm and inviting and the role of the volunteer member mentors was well liked.” “ Having Ali there to help me when I got a little confused. She is a similar age to me so I found I looked at her first to see what she was doing and then knew it was safe to copy her.” – “Anonymous”.

Outcomes show:

62 Participants joined the programme

60 participants continued exercising for the full 8 week programme

6 participants joined iCan to continue their health and wellbeing journey

36 exercise sessions were provided across the County.

Direct feedback:

90% confirmed they felt more connected with their local community and/or less socially isolated thanks to the programme.

67% confirmed they have made at least one friend whilst on the programme.

92% confirmed they felt more motivated to stay active.

100% said they enjoyed the experience of attending regular exercise and wellbeing sessions

60% lost over 4lbs during the programme

Member to Mentor:

A number of participants have been very successful in improving overall fitness and subsequent well-being. One participant however has created a whole new outlook on her health and in turn her working life


“I came to the Longtown iCan be Active classes in May 2019. I loved the classes and loved Rebounding from day one. I felt alive when bouncing and it really gave me the confidence boost I needed to kick start my health journey. Suzie our instructor was so relatable, funny and we just loved the classes with her. During the programme I started asking if these classes went on anywhere else and was told there were classes in Carlisle but if I wanted too I could be helped to set up my own class in my area of Longtown, as an iCan member mentor. I loved this idea! Since the course I’ve lost 2 stone in weight and several dress sizes. I feel amazing! After the iCan be active course I started my training to become an iCan Rebound instructor. I now teach 3 classes a week in my community which are full every week!”

Michelle White- Longtown

 Michelle’s classes launched in Longtown in November 2019 and have already seen 416 attendees across her two adult class and 81 attendees for her youth class in association with Carlisle County council- Active Cumbria- Satellite clubs. The youth classes see children from 8-15 paticipating. 20% being boys and 80% being girls.

The class has had a positive impact on 1 child, age 10. X was going to weekly physio classes for hypermobility prior to the classes starting. Part of the physio routine included exercises on a min trampoline. Since attending the classes his strength has improved and he is becoming fitter. He has shared that he notices the impact when he plays football because he feels stronger.

“Michelle’s classes have re-ignited my passion for exercise after not doing so for too many years too remember!!!!! It makes me lead a healthy lifestyle in an enjoyable way. The 30-minute class really lifts my mental health for the rest of the week” J.Ruddick


iCan Health and Fitness CIC- Changing attitudes from I can’t to I CAN!

Lisa Dykes

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