How to BE WELL in 21st century London

Our CEO Rosi Prescott and author Charles Leadbeater respond to current social challenges and position YMCA Club as a catalyst of change
11 May 2017

As a society, the challenges we face in London are in some ways no different to those faced in the 19th century when the YMCA was born. Rapid urbanisation has brought people flooding into already overcrowded cities and our society is marked by extreme inequality. We are also facing new challenges, with occupations and organisations being disrupted by competition and new technology. In addition, the rise of rental and housing costs; financial fears and ever growing mental health pressures are undermining our feelings of self-worth and security.

These challenges require a brand new response from the fitness industry and that is why we want to return to our core purpose – to nurture the mind, body and spirit.

Consequently, in October of last year we launched ‘Eudaimonia!’, the start of a movement that aims to unlock and develop good ideas for living well.

Our paper, How to be Well in 21st Century London, outlines our ambitions for Eudaimonia and identifies the factors that most affect the happiness and wellbeing of people living in our capital today.

Be Well

How to be Well in 21st Century London aims to reframe the holistic approach to wellbeing that the YMCA has been championing since 1844. Focusing on three key connections we aim to create a welcoming place for people to feel (and be) well in the 21st century:

A Fuller Self - connecting with a fuller sense of ourselves

Our Social Self - feeling part of a supportive community

Natural Connections - feeling a deeper connection to the natural world

Fuller self

Using machines to work on our bodies in isolation is a reflection of the constraints of our time as much as an escape from them. Whilst we all go to the gym for different reasons, it’s dangerous to allow a lack of time to persuade us to view fitness as purely mechanical, and for gyms to reinforce this viewpoint by positioning themselves as fitness factories. We believe in paying attention to mind and spirit as well as the body, allowing people to explore who they are through craft, learning, and fitness.

Social self

Our focus from the beginning moments of the YMCA has been on providing people with the space to be human in a world that can too often seem inhospitable, harsh and unforgiving. We have always been known as more than just a gym and have created a space and sense of wider community that is non-judgemental and open to all: a refuge from the concrete jungle.

Natural connection

Our vision has always been to create a place that embraces more than just machines and, with the launch of our ambitious refurbishment plans, we hope to completely redefine the concept of a gym. One focus of those plans is to create natural connections within our space. Most of us feel well when we experience the natural world, whether it is to sneak out of the office to feel the warmth of the sun, or to visit a park for the smell of fresh grass. We want to introduce small hints of the natural environment within our urban setting; shifting the gym from a mechanised environment to one that encompasses every expression of wellness.

Our founding principles as a charity are based on mind, body and spirit and we believe that the fitness industry has largely missed these interwoven elements, concentrating more on the number and sophistication of treadmills per square foot. We aspire to meet the needs of today by going back to the future and returning to our roots: Eudaimonia! 

If you want to know more about how to BE WELL in the 21st century download the white paper.