Arts help people lead happier healthier lives, study finds

The YMCA Club offers offers an environment which can inspire people to become involved in the arts
22 September 2017

After two years of research, consultation, and analysis, the All-Party-Parliamentary-Group (APPG) on Arts, Health and Wellbeing has released its Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing report.

Creative Health outlines how the arts can help improve our mental health, promote healthier ageing, help us tackle health inequalities and obesogenic environments, and can even assist with the management of chronic and long-term illness.

Drawing on other studies, the report highlights the many ways in which creative pursuits help people in difficult circumstances develop resilience; for instance, the report notes that listening to music can alleviate cardiovascular disease, singing can assist in improving chronic respiratory conditions and cystic fibrosis, and the culinary arts can help people manage diabetes.

It also finds that the arts may have a role to play in helping the UK address major social care challenges, such as loneliness, and can subsequently also help ease the financial burden social care places on our public services.

NHS England’s Five Year Forward View, released in 2014, encouraged a turn of focus towards community and non-medical solutions to public health concerns, and it seems therefore that the arts may be one such solution.

The contribution of music, dance, painting, sculpture and the rest to general well-being has, however, long been misunderstood and undervalued. The APPG’s report points out that in many cases arts provision is infrequent and short-term, and is also considerably unevenly distributed across the country as well as inaccessible for the economically disadvantaged.

The YMCA Club has been trying to address these issues for a number of years.

Our Club is central London’s largest gym, and currently offers classes for adults in life sculpture, ceramics, and healthy cooking, as well as children’s courses in pop art and street dance, all at affordable prices.

In most gyms, courses in the arts would be unusual and out of place. At the YMCA Club, however, they are very much in-keeping with the ethos of the charity, whereby it is not just physical health and fitness that is valued, but also the mind and spirit.

The Cooking for Health course currently underway helps participants learn how to cook simple, quick and above all healthy recipes that are fun to make, while the children’s pop art course encourages them to explore and learn about the art of Andy Warhol. 

The Club also runs wax carving and silver casting, jewellery making and enamelling courses in our dedicated art room, and we estimate that near to 50kg of silver has been cast through the years!

Similarly, last year we invited several artists to decorate the Club with so-called ‘micro provocations’, which included some rather out-there posters encouraging the banning of tea and cake and the installation of real foliage in the sauna, as well as the sound of seagulls on the intercom.

We believe that it is especially important that the Club offers an environment which can inspire people to become involved in the arts, as we have seen first-hand the capacity they have to transform lives and how they can provide an escape for those growing up in difficult circumstances.

It is therefore very encouraging that the APPG on Arts, Health and Wellbeing has been able to confirm this, and we hope that the Creative Health report can help focus minds on the value of the arts, and consequently help us all be happier and healthier.

If you would like to inquire or enrol either yourself or your children on one of our courses, please call the Club reception on 020 7343 1700. Courses are available to all, including non-members, and in most cases, previous experience is not necessary.