Welcome to Mini Mermaid Tales, our new monthly series where we chat with some of the brave, strong and active women and girls we've met in our Mini Mermaid communities.
Our first conversation? Mel Berry, founder of Her Spirit. We caught up with Mel to learn a bit more Her Spirit and her new campaign, Give me Five, which starts on 26 October. During the campaign, 4x Olympian Donna Fraser, supported by the Her Spirit coaching team will take members on an 8-week journey to a fun 5km walk or run.
1) What inspired you to create Her Spirit and why is it so important?
Her Spirit, supported by Sport England and Public Health England, is helping empower women to take the crucial first steps to live a healthier lifestyle and accompanying them throughout their journey to make this a permanent, sustainable change. Available as an app, Her Spirit harnesses the power of a global community of women to inspire and support members of all ages to transform their emotional, physical and nutritional. Alongside the community, Her Spirit offers daily classes, exercise and nutrition programmes, alongside bespoke advice and support from a host of experts, covering Mind, Body and Spirit.
2) The online community of Her Spirit through the app is a relatively new concept. Why do you think it appeals so much to women and how do you think this is the way forward in promoting physical activity?
With many exercise classes still restricted, communities broken and motivation low, Covid has had a hugely negative impact on our mental health and fitness, with women disproportionately affected. At the height of the pandemic women’s physical activity dropped by 7% while men’s increased by 6%, but the power of the Her Spirit community has shone through. The rapidly growing community has enabled women to work together, to motivate each other and create stronger bodies and minds and has shown the immense possibilities to turn this depressing statistic around.
Time to exercise is essential for our physical and mental well-being and insufficient exercise is a major cause of chronic disease. Obesity is a significant risk factor for some cancers, liver and kidney disease, cardiovascular disease and has been associated with being at greater risk from the most severe effects of covid-19. Lack of exercise is as deadly as smoking. Not getting enough exercise puts women at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, dementia, mental health problems and some cancers than men.
Exercise is a basic necessity of health, it should be a fundamental right, yet when time is tight it is often one of the first things to be dropped from our lives. Women have been disproportionately carrying the burden of caring for children and the elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic and have found their time for physical activity even further restricted.
3 Your Best Year Yet campaign directly relates to the impact that COVID has had on women's activity levels. Can you tell us about how this campaign is already having a positive impact and what you hope to achieve moving forward?
Jess is a great example and used to be a keen cyclist, swimmer and runner, but stopped exercising during lockdown, as she had to focus on looking after her two children in lockdown.
She found that her mental health started to suffer and she removed herself from social media as she found this to have a negative influence. The only app Jess decided to keep on her phone was Her Spirit.
“It is just packed full of supportive and kind women who are super inspiring and who genuinely want to see you succeed on your own personal journey. Through this support, I restarted exercising and this in turn obviously boosted my mental health as well - it was the start of a positive snowball effect.”
Read Jess' full story here
4) You are also collaborating with Women In Sport for #TimeTogether which is promoting mums and daughters to get active together. From their research, we can see that girls really value time with their mum's and therefore this relationship is vital when viewing physical activity. What are your thoughts on beginning to promote this relationship earlier and help mum's build the physical activity relationship with their daughters?
It's so important. Meet Tracey and Summer Brown, our Her Spiriters who spend more #TimeTogether
"For a long time, my anxiety often got in the way of spending time being active with my daughter, I’d often blame lack of time, but it was also linked to me thinking I was not good enough or capable. My daughter Summer is an amazing 16-year-old, that is fearless, talented and energetic; everything that for years I dreamed of being, but am only now starting to live out and enjoy the ensuing benefits.
Like many women across the UK, I was affected by COVID-19. I work as part of the air crew for Tui, though I was furloughed throughout the immediate months of lockdown and it ignited periods of anxiety and worry for me. In reality, it was one of the best things that could happen as for the first time in decades I put myself first and prioritised my physical and mental wellbeing.
I decided to take on the 6 week Learn to Swim Freestyle session earlier this year with her Spirit, a global community that offers women personalised coaching, plans and advice for Mind, Body and Fuel. From day one I embraced the support and inspiration of the women and it’s been the catalyst to overcoming my fears and has strengthened my relationship with my daughter."
Read more about Summer and Tracey here
5) At Mini Mermaids, we teach the girls from the very first session about their strong Mini Mermaid inner cheerleader and their Siren inner critic. How do you combat your inner critic when she is telling you not to be physically active?