// Fitness industry + those in need: a Fit for Good

By using the tools at our disposal, the fitness industry can make a real difference to less fortunate members of society. For this reason, Fit for Good, the fitness industry's charitable foundation, has been launched to provide health and fitness opportunities for Australians in need.

In late 2010, Lisa Champion, a director of Australian Fitness Network, started developing the concept of a charity organisation that taps into the unique talents of the fitness industry. The goal of Fit for Good is twofold;

  1. to encourage the fitness industry to reach out to Australians in need with the passion, energy and enthusiasm for health and fitness that is our trademark; and
  2. to inspire the helping community to embrace the power of exercise as a means by which people with mental health problems, drug and alcohol addictions, depression and anxiety can feel healthier and better about themselves.

These goals are summed up by the Fit for Good mission statement:
Enhancing lives by providing health and fitness opportunities for Australians in need.
Fit for Good is delighted to have Mission Australia as its Launch Partner. This means that the very 'organic' Fit for Good model will be rolled out exclusively through Mission Australia services for the first few months and we will work closely with Mission Australia to fine-tune how best we can service the helping community.

The win-win relationship

We all know how good it feels when a glowing client thanks us for helping them change their life. But to date, the reach of the fitness industry has very much been limited to the more fortunate members of society. We haven't had formalised systems in place to reach out to those who would otherwise be unable to afford our services. But it's these very people that would greatly benefit from what we have to offer – knowledge, enthusiasm, motivation and a passion for exercise.
There is plenty of research that proves the power of exercise for improving mental health and well-being. Science has also proven that volunteering is as powerful for the giver as it is for the receiver. In fact, volunteering just two hours per week can increase your happiness, lengthen your life span and improve both your physical and mental health!

Living proof of the power of fitness

Janelle Abbott, a remarkable young woman, is our inaugural Ambassador and also serves as a Fit for Good spokesperson.
Now aged 26, Janelle suffered drug-induced psychosis at the age of 20. After a tiring three-year battle of trying to hide from her paranoid thoughts and pretend to be 'normal' to her friends, family and colleagues, Janelle unsuccessfully attempted suicide several times and was detained in a psychiatric ward for two months after being diagnosed with psychosis and paranoia. After being discharged, Janelle was homeless and had to make the difficult decision to move into Catherine House, supported accommodation for women. After nine months of working hard on her life in the mental health recovery shelter, Janelle was rewarded with her own home from Housing SA.

With life beginning to seem brighter, Janelle, then weighing 97kg, knew that one step towards a happier life was losing the extra weight she was carrying. She joined Fitness First in Payneham, SA and employed the services of a personal trainer. After seven months of dedicated training and healthy eating, Janelle lost 37kg, quit smoking, replaced her anti-psychotic medication with sweet natural endorphins and ran her first 12km fun run. In 2009, Janelle won the Fitness First New You Award for her achievements. She was then awarded a scholarship on behalf of Fitness First and the Australian Institute of Fitness to gain her personal trainer qualifications and began working as a personal trainer with Fitness First. With help from other enthusiastic trainers, Janelle organised and ran a successful fitness day for homeless women at the shelter where she used to live. Janelle handed out six Fitness First gym memberships with PT packs and New Balance training shoes to get them started. The Australian Institute of Fitness also stepped up to the plate, giving one of the women the Monty Dortkamp Scholarship to study for their personal trainer qualification.

Attributing everything she had accomplished to the motivation, guidance and energy she received from her personal trainer, Janelle then became a speaker and advocate for the power of exercise to improve mental health. This made Janelle the perfect Ambassador for Fit for Good, a role she embraced when Fit for Good was launched at FILEX 2011.

Many of you will have thought about doing something to reach out to people in need. But in our busy, often stressed lives, we put this desire on the back burner, thinking we'll get around to it when we have more time. Give yourself the same advice you give clients and members who talk about improving their fitness and diet 'one day'; don't delay, act now.

This initiative will change lives! Having someone believe in you enables you to slowly start believing in yourself, so let's not wait, let's reach out now and make a difference.

For more information visit www.fitforgood.org.au