Motivation into motion

By Sally Mimnagh

Recent research by UK Active found that 12.5 million people in the UK are not raising their heart rate for at least 30 minutes even once a week, and in some areas of the UK, the proportion of inactive people is as high as 40%.  While the benefit of health and wellbeing is clear, the Department for Culture, Media & Sport also calculates that the NHS could save £13 per person per year if we were all a little more active.

Sporta, the charitable social enterprise for leisure and cultural services across the UK, wanted to learn more about how to motivate the general public to stay fit. As funders of sports programmes across the country, they also wanted to identify what made a programme effective. BDRC was tasked with evaluating the success of their projects so far.

Our research threw light on the role played by motivation.  With the right motivation, the barriers which prevent people from exercising (lack of time, low self-confidence, cost of gym membership) start to dissipate, and going to an exercise class becomes part of their weekly routine.

We found that the most successful projects spent a lot of time with their participants: reassuring them, forming like-minded groups to encourage and motivate participation, and showing potential participants the facilities so they knew what to expect when attending.  They also provided flexible times and activities to fit around participant’s schedules and preferences.  Participants began to see real benefits in attending, not just in terms of their fitness but also in building friendships with other attendees, creating time for themselves and improving their mental wellbeing.

Sporta are now launching a second wave of projects, with further trusts from around the country applying for funding to set up new programmes.  Sporta have used the insights we have provided to create a ‘how to’ leaflet to distribute to new and potential projects, outlining best practice and also pitfalls to avoid.  Sporta anticipates this insight will help the next wave of projects to be even more successful, as well as fostering knowledge sharing across the projects so that further lessons can be learnt.