GoodGym runners volunteer their time for social purpose activities like weekly group runs with a physical task (like clearing leaves in a local park or shifting soil in a community garden), regular weekly runs by volunteers to visit isolated older people (referred to as ‘coaches’) and ’missions’ which are one-off tasks for older people such as support with DIY or gardening. As a result, GoodGym contributes to reducing social isolation, bringing communities together and motivating people to get fit. View the full impact evaluation.

What CSAIF funded:

Good Gym were awarded £245,000 to support the scaling up of their activities across England to become operational in a minimum of 22 areas across England. This included:

  • Building a team of ‘Area Activators’ to support founder Members to develop proposals to secure funding and broker relationships with local authorities in new areas;
  • Improving the existing web platform to support the efficiency and speed of the pairing of Members with older people who need help and allow Members themselves to take a more active role in the pairing process.

About the evaluation

Level on Standards: Level 2 - they have captured data that shows positive change, but they cannot confirm they caused this.

Aim: The main objective of the study was to develop and then test a robust evaluation framework to support GoodGym in measuring the outcomes and impacts of its activities involving runners and older people. In developing the framework, specific outcome and impact indicators were selected in order to align with relevant strategic and policy objectives and to meet funders’ preferred measurement approaches.

Evaluator: Ecorys

Key findings:

  • Coaches interviewed reported positive outcomes related to their emotional isolation. They appreciate someone who listens to them and gives them the ability to speak about emotional topics. This was also the case where coaches had carers, family members, friends, neighbours, other volunteers or a combination of these visit them on a regular or irregular basis. Rather than the quantity of social contacts, the depth and quality of the interaction with their runner is the key to achieving positive outcomes.
  • All coaches felt happier, and 98% considered their runner a friend. On a scale of 1-5, the average scores for social isolation improved from 2.44 at the baseline stage to 2.74 at follow-up (on a scale of 1-5) while the average scores for frequency of feeling lonely improved positively from 2.11 to 2.58.
  • More individuals scored their life satisfaction as high (7-8 points) or very high (9-10 points) after six months of seeing a GoodGym runner (eight in total at the follow-up stage compared to four at the baseline stage). Average life satisfaction scores changed from 4.78 at the baseline stage to 6.11 at follow-up.
  • The longitudinal survey found that the majority (57%) of people would not have joined another running club instead of GoodGym. It also found that the average number of days spent running amongst the participants was 9.5 days per month at six months after joining (an increase of 0.7 days).
  • The survey findings also suggest that GoodGym helps participants to meet the Government’s recommended levels of weekly physical activity, as the survey showed some short-term overall increases in levels of weekly physical activity at six months after first joining GoodGym. The changes detected were:
  • An average weekly increase of 0.29 days of moderate physical activity.
  • An average weekly increase of 0.21 days of vigorous physical activity.
  • An average weekly increase in total time spent doing vigorous activity from 93 minutes per week to 113 minutes.

Methodology (Impact evaluation):

  • In-depth qualitative interviews with older people and runners – 14 interviews were completed in total.
  • Before-and-after surveys conducted with runners and older people – 70 matched (before and follow-up) responses were returned by runners and 19 by older people (a 50% response rate). It was not possible to collect sufficient numbers of follow-up survey responses within the timescale of the evaluation to allow a statistically robust analysis of change in outcome indicators (for both runners and coaches).

Why this Level: With support from Ecorys, GoodGym have delivered an evaluation that suggests a positive change over time for the beneficiaries that it supports, using appropriate validated tools. Strong qualitative evidence supports some detailed quantitative evidence to provide a convincing indication of impact. Overall this is a good evaluation, which successfully meets the criteria for Level 2 on the Standards.

About the evidence journey

Progress: Through this evaluation GoodGym has moved from Level 1 to Level 2 on the Nesta Standards of Evidence, reflecting the fact that they are now able to more robustly show a positive change in outcomes. They also now have a usable framework for ongoing monitoring and evaluation by developing tools that are easily integrated into GoodGym’s processes.

Lessons learned: The evaluation has deepened GoodGym’s understanding of impacts for both runners and older people, which are broadly very positive. The evaluation process also highlighted the value for money of the running element of the model, demonstrating that if the work with older people and time spent volunteering by runners can be better monitored and quantified, there will be a stronger case to be made for GoodGym’s value for money.

The biggest challenges presented during the evaluation related to survey response rates, and moving forward GoodGym will consider how best to encourage both runners and older people to participate in follow-up surveys. The evaluation framework developed during the process has been fully integrated into GoodGym's monitoring. GoodGym were pleased with the way the evaluation balanced qualitative and quantitative data and evidence, and makes a strong case despite the sample sizes being smaller than hoped for.

Next steps: GoodGym has secured funding from the Big Lottery Fund and is part of the Accelerating Ideas cohort managed by Nesta. This funding will enable GoodGym to significantly scale up its work with older people, and hugely increase the number of runners participating. As GoodGym scales there will be an opportunity to gather more data to increase this evidence base significantly, and GoodGym will be utilising the tools and processes developed in this evaluation to do so. During this next phase of organisation development GoodGym will seek to build on the evidence of improved wellbeing for older people, as well as to better understand the value of GoodGym for the runners, on whom the business model depends.