Active Women

Montage of images of women using gym equipment.

Darkside Rising Open Gym opens doors to support health and wellbeing

‘’The mirrors, the noise, the people. There’s absolutely no way you’ll find me in a normal gym! I get panicky and anxious just thinking about it.’’

Darkside Rising CIC Open Gym Project wanted to remove the barriers that many women experience to attending a gym and create a well-equipped space for their clients to exercise free of charge, and in an environment that they know and trust. Thanks to a grant from Sport England’s Together Fund, they were able to purchase equipment to go into two bespoke areas of the gym that were underused so that they could become the dedicated ‘Open Gym’ areas.

With over 110 clients, Darkside Rising wanted to empower them to all meet national exercise guidelines whist developing independence and ensuring that they had the support they needed whilst attending the gym. Some of the funding was also able to support them with coaching fees, that enabled them to teach clients how to use the equipment safely and effectively and encouraging them to use the open gym in small groups to develop peer support and encouragement.

Three women in festive jumpers using the gym equipment at Darkside Rising Gym.

Thanks to the funding, 10 gym inductions were conducted. This supported 60 women on how to use the equipment, and one participant who previously felt unable to use a gym (see quote above), told us how they now feel after using Darkside Rising’s Open Gym,

‘There’s something a little special about this place, I’m not sure I can explain it, but the people, the vibe, I feel at ease. I’ve attended open gym more often than any other gym membership I’ve ever had. Being part of this project has really helped my mental health, I don’t feel as anxious, and I’ve made some wonderful new friends. We train together so we can support and celebrate each other. ‘’

The gym is open 7 days a week and up to 50 hours a week for people to use and during the project, 104 women have now used the Open Gym, with an individual average of 1.6 sessions per week. This is combined with their usual project class that they attend; therefore, participants were attending the gym for a minimum of 150 minutes per week of mild/moderate physical activity (the recommended level of activity for adults).

This now continues thanks to the support that the team give to participants. Belle Hunt, Darkside Rising CIC Director, told us,

“Offering open gym sessions has been a great opportunity for us to see friendships to grow. It’s amazing to see our gym community supporting each other. I often hear the laughter when I’m in the gym, alongside the shouts of encouragement – the atmosphere is great!

The equipment has made a huge difference to what we can offer our gym community, as we have been able to offer this as an extra, in an addition to our usual classes. The extra time that everyone now spends in the gym is evident in their fitness achievements and that gives us a great sense of accomplishment, knowing we are supporting our members both physically and mentally.’’

Darkside continue to welcome people to their Open Gym and Classes and their mission is to continue removing barriers that often prevent people from attending a gym to exercise. Whether that be financial, confidence or support.

If you would like to find out more on Darkside Rising CIC, visit or reach out to the team at

The gym is located in Newporte Business Park, Lincoln.