Community. What does it mean to you? For me it’s my instructor and class-mates at spin class, working hard together, encouraging each other to get through the 45 minutes. It’s my neighbours who had a street party this year. We made connections and now offer each other support despite being a diverse bunch. It’s my WhatsApp group of mummy friends who I know are all going through the same things for the first time, at the same time as me. They won’t judge my ‘silly’ questions and will be there through the night for a friendly chat. It’s the other members of nursery committee who when I suggested a 90s disco as a fundraiser were also thinking of bottles of Hooch and dancing to Faithless while dressed in suit jackets. It’s the sharing or having certain attitudes, experiences and interests in common. The sense of community is a feeling that members have of belonging; a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group.

I work in a deprived area. As part of a Scottish Government Pilot our GP practice was given a community links worker. Our worker has changed us and our practice. As well as supporting individuals, she has also helped our patients set up support groups that improve their sense of community. The members of the group have a feeling of belonging. They feel as if they fit in and that the group is their community. They contribute to the group and sometimes make sacrifices to help others. These groups have been so successful because when one person feels the benefit of support, they become empowered to provide similar support to others.

Our practice nurse invited some of our patients at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes to join a group. This involved an exercise and education programme which has led to healthy changes in those who attended the group. Some of these people have gone on to lead later groups. Those who have been through the course and are then invited to help really feel that they matter. They feel that they can help and influence others. I don’t think there is a better group leader and teacher than someone who have been through similar issues and is motivated to help others.

How is this relevant for Lifestyle Medicine? There are health benefits to joining in and doing good. Becoming part of a community allows members to have a sense of belonging and a support network. A fantastic example is a group called ‘Tea parties with friends’ organised through Contact the Elderly ( Elderly people are paired with volunteers who host a monthly afternoon tea. This has been shown to improve the volunteer’s mental and physical health as well as boosting their self-esteem and making them feel socially connected.

There are many other potential places to volunteer. There is a central website where you can see volunteering opportunities in Scotland: Or follow your local food bank on Facebook and watch for their appeals for food needed and add it into your trolley the next time you are doing your weekly shop. The PDSA have a section on volunteering with animals on their website too You could think about volunteering at your local park run. Being a Marshall, guiding people round the route, or even better, the Tail-walker who helps and encourages others to do their best and be the last finisher so no-one else comes in last. Find your nearest park run at

I also see a sense of community in groups who exercise together. When I was struggling with my exercise mojo one of my friends offered to take me to her functional fitness class. Afterwards I said quietly ‘Don’t let me not come back’. The commitment I made to her kept me going and got me back on form. If you can find a group of friends who would go for a walk or a run once a week or all go to


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