Wigan youngsters put through physical and mental fitness workout by ex-rugby star

A former rugby pro is putting teenagers at Wigan Youth Zone through their paces to improve their mental as well as physical strength.

By Charles Graham
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 3:45 pm

The six-week Workout for your Wellbeing programme is being run by ex-Leigh Centurions player and founder of wellbeing workout app - Banish, Jamie Acton.

It was inspired by the personal mental health journey of Jamie and aims to help the young people at Wigan Youth Zone improve their mental wellbeing by increasing the amount of regular physical exercise they undertake.

It includes three face-to-face sessions with Jamie at the youth zone, as well as free unlimited access to the Banish app for everyone at the centre on an ongoing basis.

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Jamie Acton

Those taking part cited anxiety, self-confidence and body image as daily challenges after the session.

Caitlyn, 16, said she suffers with anxiety and over thinking on a daily basis but knows that exercise really helps.

She said: “Sometimes I even struggle to leave the house. It started at school and it got worse during lockdown. It was a time when we couldn’t see people and our mates and then now it can be a struggle being with people. For me being here today is a big deal.

“I play football, so I know doing sport helps. I feel good after that session – just wish I hadn’t eaten my tea before.”

Youngsters are put through their faces

Conor, aged 18, said his anxiety had also been worsened by the pandemic, but felt activity at the youth zone, including regularly using the climbing wall, had really helped with his anxiety by offering a real sense of achievement.

The event also saw a trio of siblings get moving to help with their confidence. Jordan, 19, the oldest of the three said she suffered with confidence and body image issues.

“I have always struggled with body image and confidence, but it has gotten worse in recent years. I am hoping the exercise will make me feel better because I am doing something and not just sitting down doing nothing and finding it hard to motivate myself.”

Dave Philp, head of sports at Wigan Youth Zone, said: “We’re so excited to be able to launch this activity – not only will it get their year off to a great start, it’s a massive support to our own push to get more young people active and improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

The sessions are just as much about the mind as the body

“Over the past two years it’s been really hard for the young people that we work with, we have definitely seen their activity levels reduce through no fault of their own. This has a noticeable impact on their wellbeing. So, they are also really looking forward to getting some face-to-face training from a former professional rugby player and personal trainer, as well as using the app whenever and wherever they want.”

The partnership began after Jamie approached Wigan Youth Zone, believing the young people at the centre could benefit from increased exercise to support their own mental wellbeing – particularly following months of lockdown and reduced organised group sports.

“In my personal experience, prolonged periods of inactivity always triggered a drastically worse state of wellbeing,” said Jamie, who retired from professional rugby in 2019 and subsequently faced his own battle with his mental health.

“When I retired from rugby I fell into a very negative spiral. I discovered that for me, daily exercise is essential in maintaining a healthy mental wellbeing. But I know how hard getting daily exercise has been for many people during lockdown, with reduced access to equipment or even lack of space to just get moving. As we all know, this can lead to reduced motivation.

Some of those participating in the Youth Zone sessions

“I felt that this must have been especially hard for young people – as so much of their activity is usually undertaken in groups, at school or sports clubs.

“So, to start 2022 I was really keen to work with Wigan Youth Zone, an organisation local to me, and offer the young people there some face-to-face sessions and free access to the Banish app.

“I really loved meeting the young people at this first session and seeing the sense of achievement from so many of them. There were moments of real success and pushing through the pain as well, which made me really proud of the group that attended. I am looking forward to the following sessions and seeing how everyone progresses over the next six weeks – and hopefully they use the app regularly when they need a boost.”

The first app of its kind, Banish focuses on working out with the sole purpose of improving users’ mental health and wellbeing, rather than focusing on their fitness levels or physical appearance.

The activity will be taking place during Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week (February 7) and Time to Talk Day (February 3) – highlighting the importance of mental wellbeing among young people.

For more information on Wigan Youth Zone visit wiganyouthzone.org and to discover more about the Banish fitness app, go to banishfitness.com.

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