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Case study: Physical activity working group

From April 2021 to 2022, Mind’s physical activity team launched a project on developing a healthy relationship with physical activity.

What were the project aims?

The project aimed to increase the knowledge of:  

  • When physical activity can become unhealthy and how to develop a healthy balance, including rest days
  • Spotting signs and symptoms of an unhealthy relationship and how to encourage a healthy balance, including starting conversations and signposting to support

We developed a multi-disciplinary working group who were involved in the design and delivery of the month-long campaign.

“Becoming a member of the working group improved my confidence in challenging stereotypes around physical activity, as we started to have conversations that I was never able to have before with others. I met people that had similar experiences to me, which I found empowering to not feel so alone in my own thoughts, and contribute to make change within the sector. Every suggestion, idea, or experience was never disregarded, and I felt valued for giving my contributions. It felt very meaningful.”

Catherine Hogan

Who was involved? 

We recruited a multi-disciplinary working group of 10 people. This was made up of people with lived experience of developing an unhealthy relationship with physical activity, and professionals who have supported them.

We recruited through a wide range of channels including social media, Mind’s membership magazine, and word of mouth. 

The project was co-produced and delivered by the group. They:

  • Co-produced guide 2 of our physical activity and mental health toolkit 
  • Ran quarterly working group meetings, chaired by a member with lived experience
  • Agreed aims and objectives of the project  
  • Designed the campaign and the activities we delivered 
  • Developed 4 blogs of lived experience 
  • Co-produced resources
  • Reviewed webpages
  • Planned and co-facilitated a webinar and sector roundtable event

“I am so grateful for my time in the working group. This project has allowed me to meet like minded people and work collaboratively on projects that are close to my heart. This group has been a place where I can be open about my experiences and often use them bolster the content we created.”

George Mycock 

What did you learn from the process? 

  • Co-production with the working group was integral to the success of the project. We were able to produce resources that truly addressed our audience needs 
  • Allow time to review. We gave at least 2 weeks to review resources, plan meetings and provide feedback
  • Involve people from the very beginning of the project. Start with a blank canvas and consider all ideas and thoughts 
  • The working group helped us to link in with key people we weren’t aware of  
  • Empower others to take the lead. We recruited a chair with lived experience to lead meetings, with our support
  • Have time to check-in. We had 30 minutes before and after a meeting to connect with each other, and set up a WhatsApp group
  • Manage professional and personal boundaries. Set clear boundaries like only contacting in work hours
  • Allow alternative ways to provide feedback. The group fed their ideas during the meeting, through email, via Jamboard or via 1-2-1 catch ups

How did lived experience involvement impact the project?

The quality and the impact the project had is down to the involvement of the working group. We were able to take a concept and turn it into something tangible. 

Our audience were always at the forefront of our minds. We often reflected about the most appropriate language that would minimise risk of harm to people with an unhealthy relationship with physical activity. 

When developing the resources, the working group’s experience and knowledge helped us create content which spoke to our audiences’ needs. We wouldn't have achieved what we had without the working group. 

4 blogs were developed by people with lived experience. The personal stories were extremely powerful and played a huge role in raising awareness during our campaign. They featured in the BBC, Stylist Magazine, The Independent and more. 

“I learnt how to work with other people who are living with or who care for those living in a non-healthy relationship with physical activity. I also learnt a lot about Mind, who gave me this opportunity. As someone who lives with an unhealthy relationship with physical activity, I now know that that is the case, and I can therefore try with help to turn this around using both the contacts I have and the resources established through the working group.” 

Debbie Butler, chair of the group.

How did the activity benefit those who were involved?  

The project:

  • Improved confidence and wellbeing of working group members
  • Provided development opportunities for staff members
  • Members’ contributions felt meaningful and valued
  • Provided a safe space to feel included within conversations
  • Improved peer-to-peer connection and feelings of support to each other to form wider connections outside of the working group
  • Gave those involved an opportunity to use their lived experience in a way that may benefit others going through similar things
  • Created a space for those with lived experience to explore their understanding of how relationships with exercise can become unhealthy
  • Allowed for networking between those with lived experience, to begin new projects and work together on other ideas which touch on the same topic
  • Allowed us to share and raise awareness amongst our own networks, which allows the messages to grow like a spiders web – for example sharing messaging with MSc students and physical activity coaches, and a case study informed by this project in a textbook for future sport and exercise practitioners

"I’ve met people who I know will be long-term connections, and the project has already opened up opportunities to CPD, events and projects I’d never have accessed otherwise." 

For Paula Watson, the project allowed her to connect with people you would never usually meet in everyday life.

What advice would you give to people running a similar project? 

  • Involving people with lived experience is vital, particularly if you are looking to reach out to a new audience. 
  • Make sure you have a clear support offer in place. For example, have a point of contact in the team, access to an employee assistance programme or reflective practice sessions.
  • Recruit a group of people with a range of experiences, so you gain a variety of views. Make sure they have experience or an interest in your project. For our working group, there were young people, Mind staff, people with long term health conditions, sports coaches and professionals who've supported people with an unhealthy relationship. 
  • Develop a terms of reference for the group. This is particularly important when you’re working with professionals and experts by experience in one group, as this could create uncomfortable dynamics if it’s not managed carefully.
  • Treat everyone as equals and listen. Allow everyone to input and feedback into meetings. 
  • Provide a clear description of the role, a main point of contact and make sure the group has access to support and personal development opportunities.  
  • Give regular updates and give the group lots of opportunities to feed into the project outside of the sessions.  
  • Have fun! Allow opportunities to connect outside of meetings. 
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