ARE YOU HOMELESS, SOFA SURFING OR AT RISK?

Centrepoint runner from the back

Why We're Moving In May For Homeless Young People

May is a busy time. Not only is it National Walking Month, but it’s also home to Mental Health Awareness Week, which this year helped raise awareness for feelings of loneliness. And what better way to recognise these significant events than with our Move in May initiative, which sees supporters get out and about with friends to raise money for homeless young people.

As June fast approaches, many of our supporters will be donning their trainers and totalling up their footsteps for the last few days of Move in May.

Move in May began in 2020 as a way for people to get moving during lockdown whilst also raising money. And the great thing about the initiative is, it doesn’t limit you to one form of exercise. So if you’re not a runner, that’s fine – you can get your walking boots on and have a ramble.

This widens the reach of Move in May, making it accessible to a much broader audience. This year, for example, we’ve had plenty of people making the most of their retirement and getting in those crucial steps.

Bill, in his sixties, wasn’t always so keen on keeping fit, but wanted to combat the boredom of retirement with something new. “I needed a challenge, so I signed up for a few 10k races. Then a couple of half marathons. I climbed Snowdon and Yorkshire Three Peaks. I also took on Mount Fuji and got into climbing volcanoes.”

Now, walking and running has become a regular part of his routine, completing around 10+ miles at least twice a week.

And whether you’re a big hiker like Bill, or like a brisk jog little and often, the benefits of getting outdoors and moving are palpable. Undoubtedly we all experienced the advantages of being outdoors during the pandemic, taking big gulps of fresh air on a stroll around the park before being locked in once more, but there’s academic proof of its benefits as well as anecdotal.

One study comparing indoor and outdoor exercise found that the latter was far more beneficial to one’s health – participants who spent just 20 minutes in the great outdoors experience more energy than those who walked indoors. Plus, the NHS say just 20 minutes of walking can reduce your risk of several major illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and strokes.

But of course, keeping active isn’t just about the physical advantages. Exercise reduces anxiety and depression, whilst also improving self-esteem and cognitive function. “I think I could write an essay on the mental health benefits running has had for me in my life!” Says Jasmine, 23, who ran the London Landmarks Half Marathon for Centrepoint with her brother.

“This sense of peace in running is also what me through lockdown. My brother and I would go for long runs and find hidden nature tracks, waterways and parks. It's what motivates me to get out every weekend. On particularly stressful days, simply putting my headphones in and getting out for a run, sometimes without knowing where I am going or for any particular distance, helps clear my head and bring me back down to earth.”

It’s also the perfect opportunity to spend time with friends. The past two years have been challenging in many ways, and left a lot of us feeling alone. We don’t need research to tell us that human interaction is important for our mental and physical health and a key component to adult life – but studies have shown that those with satisfying relationships are happier and healthier. In fact, the act of running brought Jasmine closer with her brother, and Bill counts “catching up with friends whilst enjoying the fresh air and exercise” as one of the main benefits to his walking routine.

It doesn’t hurt, too, that all these steps are going towards a great cause. “I have always been concerned about the plight of young people who might find themselves on the streets or sofa surfing,” says Philip, 67, who also became an avid walker after retiring. “I wanted to take part in [Move in May] – normally asking people to donate would be [something] I avoid, but there was something that tugged me about this challenge, so I decided to give it a go.”

For the uninitiated, Move in May involves completing 122,000 steps over the course of the month, reflecting the number of young people in the UK aged 16-25 who are currently homeless or facing homelessness (you can find out more by looking at our Databank). You can walk, run, skip, prance – whatever you choose to do, your efforts to move mean a young person can take their first steps out of homelessness.

Philip’s game plan was to split the steps up into even, manageable chunks. “I thought I would be able to manage 4,000 steps per day to achieve the 122,000. I asked friends to sponsor me for £1, so I could walk 1,000 steps for each of them. Their generosity so far has raised £336 and I am immensely proud of all who have donated. I won't be walking 336,000 steps though!”

And the month isn’t over yet – when we last heard from Philip on 14 May, he was 96,000 steps down, 26,000 to go – although, he said, with two weeks left to go, “I wonder just how many steps I might end up taking.”

June will soon be here, but of course, exercise is for life, not just for Move in May. If you’ve missed this year’s event, there’s always next year, so keep an eye out on our events page – or use this as inspiration for your very own fundraiser.

In the meantime, you can use that very same events page to check out all of the challenges available right now – it’s got plenty of runs, rambles and walks to keep you energised.

Jasmine isn’t a Move in May-er, but is undertaking the London Marathon next month for Centrepoint: “I have never done a marathon distance before and I am both excited and terrified!”

For Jasmine, her dedication to running for Centrepoint is already well established. “What Centrepoint do with helping youth homeless not only get off the streets but also start to establish a proper life to keep them off the streets is what particularly attracted me to the charity initially for the London Landmarks Half,” she says.

“The support the team provided in the run up to the event has been amazing and encouraged me to run the marathon on behalf of Centrepoint. I recognise I am in a hugely privileged position as a young person to have a job, home, family and safety and I believe everyone should have access to such human comforts.”

Bill has walked on behalf of Centrepoint for the London Walk, as well as setting his own challenge of walking the Grand Union Canal, a 166-mile journey that starts at Kew Bridge, London and ends at Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham. “Deciding to do it for Centrepoint was easy,” he says. “Helping young people to navigate through their early days of hardship can only be a good thing. Young people are our future, so concentrating on helping the young achieve their full potential simply makes sense.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. The benefits of getting outside and moving are obvious, and tying it in with a good cause is a no brainer. And if you’re wondering what makes a successful walk, what ensures you keep coming back for more? “Good company and good exercise,” Bill says. “And good footwear – if your feet complain, disaster.”

Check out Move in May here.

Have a look at all our other events here. 

And don't forget to tell us if you've been part of a fundraising event - let us know here. 

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