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ParkLives offer a variety of activities for adults, children and families in parks across the UK. We have been taking advantage of those in Manchester and here are our top five reasons to try ParkLives near you:
1 – it’s totally and utterly free! All of the activities and sessions are paid for so all you have to do is book on and turn up. As a Mum on statutory maternity pay, this is an excellent incentive to have a go! You can try sessions as a one off or go weekly – there is something for everyone. Not only this but at the first session you go to, you will get a £5 voucher to spend on sportswear. If you bring a friend to a future session, you will get another £5!

2 – you get out in the fresh air trying something new. The parks around Manchester are beautiful at any time of year and through ParkLives you have the incentive to get out of the house and go see them! Any form of exercise will make you feel better about yourself, and of course improve your fitness levels but exercise outside has an added umph. I always spend a bit of time walking Rita around before our sessions start, admiring the views. ParLives also gives you the opportunity to try something new without having to pay out a lump sum or sign up to a number of classes – they have everything from zumba to rounders, health walks, buggy bootcamp, and donkey grooming – and much more besides.

3 – meet new (and like-minded) people. Although I attend a lot of sessions with my ante-natal group, we have also attended activities as a family and Gareth’s daughter has loved meeting new children to make friends with. ParkLives offers a non-threatening environment in which to socialise – and you can usually find somewhere local for a coffee afterwards. In fact if you feel you have worked really hard you can treat yourself to a decent piece cake in most of these parks.

4 – access to support, advice and target setting. The staff employed to take the ParkLives sessions know their stuff. Not only this but in my experience they are friendly, approachable and really helpful – they can offer advice on your fitness goals without you having to go to (or pay for) a gym. They are an incredible valuable resource to the community and also have good links to other initiatives across the city which they will inform you of.

5 – it’s good fun. All of the sessions are set at a pace which is appropriate to most but which enable you to go at your own speed. It doesn’t matter how fit you are -there is something available for you. No-one ever leaves a fitness session feeling worse than they did before they started – get your endorphins going and you will be ready for anything!
I regularly attend the post natal fitness classes – most of my NCT group are there too. This class focuses on pre and post labour exercise and incorporates a walk around the park (with buggies) and targeted exercises. Terri runs the group and gives great advice and support – she is really friendly and approachable and you can do as much or as little of the exercises as you feel able.

We have also been to Family Donkey Grooming at Heaton Park. We took Gareth’s 5 year old daughter and she loved it. For an hour the children learn how to care for, feed and groom the donkeys. The staff are superb with the children and they even all got a rosette at the end of the class – I have been informed that we will definitely be going back!
The last activity I have tried – and again this was with a couple of women from my NCT group, is the Buggy Bootcamp at Boggert Hole Clough. My daughter was teething and grouchy so I put her in our baby carrier. Although this wasn’t ideal, the instructor modified exercises for me and I got involved as much as I could – again, it is good just to be outside in a Manchester park enjoying the fresh air and the views! This class is more strenuous than post-natal fitness – there is no walking and it is all exercises. I really enjoyed this class and again the knowledge of the instructor about the exercises and how best to support us individually was evident.
ParkLives is a brilliant initiative which more families, and individuals should get involved with – there are far more reasons to have a go than not go in my opinion! Please note that the timetable of activities is lighter in the winter months – you should always check and book activities

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