Darlington Baptist Church has teamed up with Physique Fitness and Darlington FC Foundation to roll out a new exercise programme for those who access local foodbanks.

The programme Free Steps to Fitness runs for six weeks at no cost to those who attend.

Those who complete the six weeks are offered a cut price gym membership subsidised by Tees Valley Sport.

The scheme has been running since earlier this summer and it has been very popular and has now been extended.

The Northern Echo: Darlington Baptist Church has organised fitness sessions for those who access foodbanks. Picture: Darlington Baptist ChurchDarlington Baptist Church has organised fitness sessions for those who access foodbanks. Picture: Darlington Baptist Church (Image: Darlington Baptist Church)

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Church minister Rev Vicky Thompson said: “The cost-of-living crisis is affecting people in many more ways than simply financially.

“It used to be the case that most people who came to the food bank were struggling because of benefits sanctions or simply found themselves in a tough spot that isn’t the case anymore.

“Many of those who now attend our foodbanks are working and still struggling to make ends meet.

“One lady told me that the first thing to go as costs rose was her gym membership.

“When someone can barely afford food, other options are also taken away from them affecting both their physical and mental health.”

The Northern Echo:

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The association between lack of funds, hunger, and physical and mental health are difficult to ignore.

People who are 'food insecure' are disproportionally affected by diet-sensitive chronic diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure, and according to research, food insecurity is also linked to many adverse effects to overall health.

The team at Darlington Baptist Church wanted to try to do something to change the lives of those access its Foodbank.

“We decided to approach our local Gym who were already doing a lot of other community work, supporting schools and encouraging children to exercise to ask if there was anything we could do together to help those who access our foodbank and other services to access the opportunity and encouragement to exercise and they immediately jumped at the opportunity to help.”

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Together with physique fitness and Tees valley sport we came up with the idea of free steps to fitness.

There have been 26 attenders and 19 have completed the full six weeks making them eligible for a gym membership.

The team at Darlington Baptist Church said those who have attended have reported better metal health better physical health and less social isolation as they have been brought into a supportive community.