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Ystrad Mynach fitness coach supporting the community to improve mental health after lockdown

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A fitness coach from Ystrad Mynach is sharing the importance of mental health benefits from exercise as people across Wales are getting back in the game as sports restrictions lift.

60-year-old Haydn Pritchard, a personal trainer and fitness coach, is sharing how he’s been supporting people throughout lockdown and now that exercise classes are able to resume, how he’s encouraging building confidence and self-esteem in the over-55s.

After retiring from 35 years in the armed forces, Haydn returned to his hometown in the Rhymney Valley to discover a lack of support available for senior people in the village. 

Our research suggests that more than 50% of over 55-year-olds exercise to manage their mental health, but with 22% from the same demographic reporting they have reduced their physical activity during the pandemic due to shielding and lockdowns, Haydn is one of those looking to support his community.

FitYard member joining in the group exercise and smiling while he's doing arm exercises.
FitYard member joining in the exercise.


Using his passion for both positive physical and mental health, Haydn now runs FitYard, helping hundreds of people both within the village of Ystrad Mynach and even further afield through online classes. 

Discussing the link between physical and mental health, Haydn said: “I was a voluntary mental health first aider within the military and have seen first-hand the benefits that exercise has on wellbeing. There’s a huge market for young people in fitness through gyms and classes, but not a lot out there for the older people in our community. As a retiree myself, I know that not everyone is comfortable in a gym, especially at the moment during the pandemic. 

“Since the start of the first lockdown, a lot of our community have been shielding, many of those are people who live alone and who would have gone long periods of time without any contact with anyone. As well as running our classes online, so people could take part from their living rooms and gardens, we also started weekly entertainment activities such as bingo to help people stay connected.”

Former teacher Roger Price, 73, and former nurse Rose Batton, 71, both retired, are just two of many people who have been attending the FitYard classes with Haydn. Sharing his experiences, Roger said: “Two years ago, I couldn’t even do a star jump, and now at 73 years old I’m running distances of 10km. These classes have given me structure and motivation that I wouldn’t have otherwise had, it’s transformed my life. Lockdown has been a very isolating experience and paired with an accident I had resulting in a broken ankle, I was at risk of reaching a really low point in my outlook on things. The classes kept me going and have improved my wellbeing greatly.”

FitYard coach Haydn Pritchard leading an outdoor group fitness session.
FitYard coach Haydn Pritchard leading an outdoor group fitness session.


Rose, a retired cardiac rehabilitation nurse knows first-hand the benefits activity can have on people. Rose said: “These classes have been the glue to our community this last year. I’m afraid to think what it would have been like without it. Personally, I’ve had a lot of fear and tension around the pandemic but being able to talk about this with like-minded people, people in my age group, it’s really helped and I’m reminded that we’re all in this together.”

With restrictions lifted to allow both outdoor and indoor organised exercise, team sports, and group fitness classes, people across Wales will be able to enjoy group activities again which are vital to the wellbeing of our communities.

 Enthused by how the easing of restrictions will open up sport to more people, Sarah Powell, the CEO of Sport Wales, said: “It is really important for us to highlight the benefits that physical activity has on both physical and mental wellbeing. Throughout an incredibly testing period, the sporting family in Wales has shown great patience, acting both responsibly and creatively to help support healthy lifestyles during the pandemic.   

“These positive stories shared by the community in Ystrad Mynach is just one example of the groups across Wales who have been supporting each other this last year. We’re incredibly pleased that organised activities and sports are able to resume again safely.” 

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