Young women receiving support from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) are being offered the chance to boost their confidence, fitness and self-esteem by joining a new boxing group which aims to pack a punch to mental ill health.
The 'Positive Impact' initiative will see service users aged between 14 and 25 join students from Norwich City College to take part in a weekly pad session under the guidance of a qualified tutor. This will be followed by a wind-down, during which the group can reflect on the class and how they are feeling, as well as trying mindfulness, relaxation and breathing exercises.
The female-only group's introduction comes following the success of football sessions called 'All to Play For', which give men facing mental health difficulties the chance to socialise, build confidence and boost emotional wellbeing.
It is the brainchild of NSFT Assistant Practitioner Sue Hampson, who saw first-hand the positive impact which boxing training could have on residents while working in a care home before joining the Trust, and colleague Elle Haskins.
"I am a firm believer in exercise being a natural mood booster and am really excited about introducing these sessions within the youth service," said Sue, who works with NSFT's Children, Families and Young People's Service.
"Boxing can help people experiencing mental health difficulties in many ways. It can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by focusing the mind and body in the present and taking people away from ruminating thoughts or worries. It can improve attention, focus and concentration and provide a fun source of distraction, as well as giving people the chance to make new friends in a sociable and supportive environment.
"Boxing also encourages a healthier lifestyle, which benefits physical and mental wellbeing, sleep, eating, self-care and compassion, while instilling a sense of achievement. The classes will also provide a controlled and safe environment to release frustrations, stress and anger.
"After the physical part of the session, we will also hold a wind-down, which will give everyone the chance to talk about how the boxing made them feel while reflecting on the class as a whole.
"At the care home, the sessions had a really positive impact on residents' self-esteem, and to see them pumped after a session was amazing. I really hope that we can recreate that success with our young people at NSFT when these fantastic new sessions begin shortly."
Personal trainer and boxing instructor Sharon Plummer, who will lead the sessions, said: "I have seen so many times how the physical and mental aspects work hand-in-hand. Boxing is a perfect distraction from any worries people may have, as they have to focus on nothing else other than the punches for the whole session. Boxing is fun, gives a feel-good factor and there is something quite therapeutic about punching pads!
"There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a downtrodden person walking away with a smile on their face. I am really looking forward to training the girls and seeing positive results."
Lisa Hale, Sports Lecturer at Norwich City College, said: "We are delighted to be working with NSFT and Sharon to promote positive physical activity opportunities for females in the county.
"This opportunity will also allow our students to gain experience in collaborating with organisations and understand how physical activity can help to promote positive health and wellbeing."
A maximum of 12 people will be able to take part during the 12-week pilot, which begins on Friday (7 September) at City College. Initially the group will be for females only, but may be opened up to males depending on the feedback which staff receive.
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Caption (left to right): Personal trainer and boxing instructor Sharon Plummer, who will lead the sessions; Lisa Hale, Sports Lecturer at Norwich City College; and Elle Haskins, NSFT Assistant Practitioner
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