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The Gravesend gym giving women a lifestyle workout

PUBLISHED: 09:00 29 August 2012 | UPDATED: 14:25 29 August 2012

Annie Redelinghuys from Curves

Annie Redelinghuys from Curves

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For many women getting back into exercise can be a daunting prospect and they shudder at the thought of sweating it out in front of an 'audience'.

So a 30-minute workout where there’s no mirrors or men, where the machines aren’t intimidating and no one is barking instructions is likely to go down well.

Curves has been offering women in Gravesend an easy way to get fit for the last six years.

It is part of a franchise that is in 85 countries worldwide and was launched 22 years ago as a one-stop shop for women to lose weight.

The workout involves 20 stations which are used for 30 seconds at a time to burn up to 500 calories in just half an hour.

As well as getting fit, the routine gives all the other benefits of exercise – one woman tells me it is helping her arthritis while another says that after a long battle with depression her life is now transformed.

Its success, says owner Annie Redelinghuys, is that it caters for what women want.

“It is, one, for the businesswoman on her lunch hour and, two, for the mixed ethnic groups who may have cultural issues stopping them going to mixed venues and, three, for the obese.

“It’s no mirrors, no men and no make-up. No one overweight wants to watch themselves in the mirror exercising.

“Everyone gets attention here without it being from a personal trainer,” she said.

However, it doesn’t stop at losing a couple of pounds. Annie wants to use Curves to help women in all aspects of life from health to happiness.

Some people pay full price membership of about £30 but others are referred by charities such as Rethink, an Asian mental health charity.

Four years ago Kent County Council sponsored a project with Curves to see whether physical exercise could help women from minority groups, disadvantaged backgrounds and those with mental health issues feel more integrated in the community.

After the six-month pilot scheme most wanted to continue at the gym, and they were also inspired to get involved further afield.

“Once they felt better within themselves they wanted to do more,” said Annie. “Many of them were on benefits. Most of them didn’t know how to cook and none of these ladies had ever sewn before.”

Now the gym is just the starting point of the journey. Annie has launched a social enterprise called Stronger Together whose mission is to improve women’s self-esteem through a range of workshops.

Last year she relocated Curves from Gravesend town centre to the Riverside Centre in Denton to link up with community activities there.

“They are making clothes and have become totally different people. It is all about building confidence. We are looking at a whole person’s development,” Annie said.

Her ultimate aim is to create co-operatives that the women become partners in and can take some profit from. So it is from some simple weights and squats that women from Curves are now on a path to empowerment.

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