Inspiring an Active Mackay
Winner of the Start Playing Stay Playing Excellence Award
Posted on 07.12.2018
On the 6th of December at the iconic Cricket grounds of the Gabba in Brisbane, the I AM program was named the winner of the ‘Inclusion’ category for the ‘Start Playing, Stay Playing’ award for Excellence and awarded the overall 2018 Minister’s Start Playing Stay Playing Excellence Award.
Inspiring an Active Mackay (I AM) is a series of introductory programs to re-engage women in activity and new social networks.
The team from Approach Adventure worked with the Mackay Regional Council to deliver a series of low-cost, introductory activity programs aimed particularly at women and families in Mackay. The program is delivered under the Queensland Government’s Embracing 2018 Legacy Program for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games and is funded by the Australian Government.
I AM is aimed at delivering beginner-level physical activities and skill development opportunities for women who are currently under-active or want to learn a new sport within the Mackay region.
The activities – running, hiking, SUP, yoga and trail running – are delivered in a safe setting with a social-connection focus and provide women with the opportunity to participate in the activity, as well as engage in education around enhancing skills in the activity while working through barriers that may prevent them from remaining engaged in activities in the future.
The Inspiring an Active Mackay (I AM) program delivered beginner level physical activities and skill development opportunities targeting women who are currently inactive or under-active. The activities were offered in a safe setting with a focus on developing social connection and building confidence.
I AM offered a series of low cost introductory level sessions that took participants through a 3 to 4 week course in understanding and developing skills and confidence in a particular area of physical activity and linking participants with ongoing participation opportunities beyond the program. The activities offered were based around spending time in the outdoors, developing skills that enhance their capacity to participate in broader events across the Region and focused on long term engagement in the activity beyond the program by offering links to existing structured, semi-structured and self managed models of physical activity participation. Participants were also encouraged to participate in local events such as Triathlons, Fun Runs, Adventure Races and other social and competitive based events. The activities offered under I AM included a basic running skills program, learn to Stand Up Paddle Board program, outdoor yoga program and a trail running skills program. A series of 4 one off hikes was also offered to cater to women with complex commitment schedules.
Mackay demonstrates an alarming overrepresentation in areas of key health concerns. According to the most recent “Progress In Australian Regions Year Book 2017”, at 83.4% Mackay had the highest proportion of overweight and obese adults in Queensland. Only 25.4% of adults residing in Mackay met the recommended physical activity guidelines. This data combined with the reported underrepresentation of women engaging in physical activity, as well as the key role that women have within the home and community, around influencing healthy lifestyle choices, resulted in the focus of delivering a physical activity enagement program to the women of Mackay.
The strength of the I AM program was its design in linking with existing activities within the region, but promoting and delivering the activities in a way that specifically addresses common barriers that prevent women from trying something new or participating in physical activity. The common barriers that women experience that I AM aimed to address include difficultly prioritising or commiting to exercise due to competing responsibilities and feeling guilty, confidence issues, fear, concerns around fitness and being injured, as well as affordability. An additional need was also identified in offering activities to women from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds.
I AM specifically aimed to address common barriers by implementing a multilevel approach that combines key marketing messages, clear information around what to expect, women friendly schedules, skill development in key activity areas, with an aim of post program engagement in existing activity opportunities on a scale of affordabilities.
I AM aimed to make women feel comfortable offering women only activities, at a minimal cost (generally $5/session) and marketing the activity to make women feel safe and supported to participate in the activity even if they didn’t know anyone or hadn’t tried it before. Women were provided with clear and comprehensive information in the lead up to the activity. Activities were delivered across a range of times that would cater to women with busy and complex schedules and commitments, including weekends and week nights. The short offerings of 3 to 4 sessions made it easier for women to commit and the offering of one off hikes catered to women who couldn’t make a continuous commitment. The outdoor public location focus enabled women access to the facility outside of the program, as well as the additonal benefits of being outdoors. The beginner level focus on the activities made them appealing to women of all ages and skill level. Providers were selected based on their capacity to nurture a safe, social, fun and non-competitive environment. A component of each activity was to promote and discuss ongoing opportunities to remain engaged in the activity at both skill development and event level. These activities provided physical, emotional, psychological and social benefit.
Approach Adventure also engaged with a local multicultural group to identify barriers to engagement and establish a multicultural focused offering of outdoor yoga.
While the program initially aimed to engage 151 individual participants it engaged a total of 235 individual participants, with 290 activity places offered across the program (60 women participated in multiple activities). 736 participation episodes were accessed. All activities offered were sold out, with some activities selling out within 2 days. Participants ranged in age from 14 to over 60, with most participants being between 30 and 60.
99 evaluation responses were collected across the program – 29% of respondents identified that they participated in the program to re-engage in physical activity, 53% joined the program in order to increase their level of participation in physical activity, 76% of respondents wanted to try something new, 61% joined because of the cheap pricing, 47% joined because it was all women, 40% wanted to meet new people, 38% were comforted by the marketing and 45% liked that they didn’t have to organise anything.
Respondents rated overall enjoyment of activities in the program a 4.82 out of 5 on average. 30 respondents identified confidence as their biggest unprompted gain from the program, with 41 identifying that new/improved skills were their biggest gain and 26 identifying that they enjoyed meeting like minded people.
Feedback identifies program participants have on gone on to participate in local fun runs and adventure races, join local clubs and community groups, started regular exercise with local providers, set personal goals to complete a range of physical activity challenges, taken families to participate in activities and influenced workplace cultures.
Participants and women who were unable to secure program tickets have provided overwhelming feedback that they would like to see I AM program activities continue into the future with 91% of evaluation respondents identifying that they would participate in similar activities in the future and 97% identifying they would recommend the program to friends.
Approach Adventure is currently exploring avenues to establish similar programs within the community at affordable rates. This includes sharing its program learnings with local providers around the successful engagement of women in activities, establishing an event Calendar and Facebook Page to link women with activities within the Region and exploring options for funding and sponsorship.
Approach Adventure currently operates under the arm of a company, however it is hoped that it will be transitioned to a Not For Profit Organisation in the future to better encompass its purpose in socially influencing women to achieve better health outcomes through physical activity, spending time in nature and building social connections.
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