Oak Activities usually deliver chair based exercise classes along with inclusive games in partnership with Power2Inspire. These regular classes that take place in March, Ramsey and St Ives aimed at older and disabled people obviously had to close along with everything else in March 2020, as the country went in to lock down to tackle the coronavirus. Within days of closing Tom Milner, from Oak Activities and John Willis, founder of Power2Inspire hatched a plan to move classes online.

They first approached Living Sport for support and advice, funding was gained via the Cambridgeshire Community Foundation Coronavirus fund and a Living Sport Community Small grant to cover the cost of setting up and delivering classes online as well as funding resistance bands to be used in the classes these can be posted out for those that need them .

Oak Activities, via instructor Lou on Facebook Live, are now delivering 3 chair based exercise classes a day (Monday – Friday) for free at 3 different levels; 9.30 – 10am is the beginner’s class, 12 – 12.30pm is an intermediate one and 3 – 3.30pm slot finishes the day with an advanced class.

Classes can be accessed through the Keep Active with Oaks Facebook page, the link is https://bit.ly/2KufH09 and to check out the short 90 seconds introduction video visit Oak Activities you tube page https://bit.ly/2SaXLf0  for the timetable of classes and to let people know what to expect, explain what is needed for each class and also promote the safety aspects to be considered by participants.

Having had a couple of trial days, it was decided the best platform was Facebook Live and the daily exercise classes were launched on Monday 20th April. They also have free resistance bands to send to people to help with some of the exercises in the classes so that equipment isn’t a barrier. All people need is the ability to access classes through Facebook, on a computer, laptop, tablet or smart phone, along with a sturdy chair to do the exercise on or use for balance when standing.

The chair-based exercise classes are doing extremely well.  They had hoped that they would get a hundred or so people. The Facebook page has over 600 likes and they have had over 26,000 views of the classes so far. They would normally get around 50 people attending the three weekly venue classes in March, Ramsey and St Ives so these are truly astonishing numbers and demonstrates a real demand for live classes with a fully qualified instructor there to guide people through.

John Willis Founder of Power2Inspire said after the first week;

“We are thrilled to be helping older, disabled, or isolated people in these difficult times.  It is so important to stay active and to feel part of a community – that the sessions are live means you can feel the outside world, you are participating in something at the same time as others; just as the 8pm Thursday applause brings the community together.  Please spread the word as wide as you can: help your mother, father, granny, uncle, or  neighbour to tackle the technology and have fun joining in!”

Both Power2Inspire and Oak Activities are keen that the classes continue and are working hard to spread the word with the help of partners like Living Sport to ensure they are reaching those that could really benefit from the strength and balance exercises in the classes as part of their daily routine. It’s important that those using social media spread the word to those who aren’t and support them to participate with the help of technology.