21 November 2013

Boxfit's a knock out

Frank BrunoBoxing legend and mental health advocate Frank Bruno sparred with service users from Bristol Active Life Project on Wednesday to mark the half-way point in the 10 week Boxfit programme in Bristol.

During his visit to Bristol Boxing Gym in St Agnes, Frank toured the facilities and chatted with gym staff and members before getting in the ring to put BALP's Boxfit participants through their paces.

The Boxfit pilot was initiated by Martin Bisp and Jamie Sanigar from Empire Boxing Gym, who approached BALP after observing how beneficial the sport was for members living with mental health conditions. The programme was launched on World Mental Health Day in October with the support of British bantamweight champion Lee Haskins.

Five weeks in, participants are extolling the benefits. Sally - the only female participant so far - has tried a range of sports with BALP after the intensive home intervention team advised her to try physical activity to help her manage her mental health.

After joining Frank in the ring for an impressive display of skills learned during the first five sessions, Sally said, "I'm really loving this. I enjoy sports and I've tried football and tennis with BALP, but found it difficult to stick at them. But this is a great sport, I wish I'd done it years ago. It's not at all intimidating here, it doesn't matter that I'm the only woman, and it's great for getting rid of anger and aggression. I feel healthier mentally and physically and after each session I feel mentally stronger. Frank was brilliant today - he's one of my idols."

Paul Davies from BALP, who worked with Martin and Jamie to set up the programme, said, "It's great to see how enthusiastic our clients are about this programme. Bristol Boxing Gym is incredibly welcoming, non-judgemental and encouraging, which has helped our clients to develop confidence alongside the physical and mental benefits of the sport itself. It was amazing to see how much they've learned in just five weeks, and to see them displaying the confidence to demonstrate what they have learned in the ring, with no lesser person than Frank Bruno and watched by a room full of people."

Encouraging people to get active to benefit their mental health, Frank said, "People can start by trying more gentle activities like yoga, swimming or walking to help clear their heads, and take it from there. It's great to see people enjoying Boxfit and coming back week after week."

Frank was accompanied by the Sunday Mirror who took photographs and conducted interviews for a forthcoming feature, and the Bristol Post's Vicki Mathias dropped by - see her report in today's Post.

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