“FiiT For Life” Seeks to Have Exercise Recognized as Medical Treatment in the UK and Beyond

June 25, 2021 by
Courtesy of Athalie Redwood-Mills
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Six years ago, a member of CrossFit Deviant in Derby in the UK showed up at the gym “super upset” because his mother was about to undergo cancer treatment

  • “She had gone to her GP and her GP told her she needed to lose weight and get fit or this cancer will come back. And this woman, who was in her mid-50s asked, ‘What do I do? Where do I go?’ And the GP said, ‘I don’t know. Now off you go,’” said Athalie Redwood-Mills, the co-owner and coach at CrossFit Deviant, and a Senior Lecturer in the Sport and Exercise Science Department at Nottingham Trent University in the UK. 
  • “It was insane that her doctor said that to her. What do you mean you can’t tell her where to go to get fit?”

Lightbulb moment: Hearing this story was a “turning point” for Redwood-Mills, and is part of what led her to start FiiT For Life, a charity that offers world class training through their CPD (continuing professional development) courses for health and fitness professionals. 

  • The second reason Redwood-Mills started FiiT For Life was that she noticed a trend among CrossFit coaches: They want to help everyone but sometimes lack confidence, and the necessary skills when it comes to working with special populations, such as people with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neuromuscular disease, she explained. “And it can be expensive to get qualified in those specific areas,” Redwood-Mills added.

The details: FiiT For Life’s goals are twofold: To educate coaches in an effective and affordable manner to prepare them to work with people dealing with various physical ailments, and to have exercise and fitness recognized by the medical community, not as a leisure activity, but as medicine capable of preventing disease. 

  • “The big plan is to get exercise recognized as part of the treatment plan, because it is preventative medicine. We’re super passionate about that,” Redwood-Mills said.
  • To help their coaches pay for continuing education, gyms can become affiliates with FiiT For Life’s clothing line. Any time someone uses the affiliated gym’s code to purchase clothing, the profits go into a pot to help coaches pay for continuing education courses.
  • “Or gyms can use the money (from their clothing sales) to run a program at their gym to help people with chronic diseases,” Redwood-Mills explained. Currently, their affiliated gyms are all in the UK, but she would love to see the program expand.
Courtesy of Athalie Redwood-Mills

One big thing: One of the barriers in the UK right now is that in order to qualify as a Level 3 exercise specialist, which gives you the ability to work with people with certain barriers or medical conditions, it take a lot of “time, money and…hoop jumping to get the paper,” Redwood-Mills said. 

  • Thus, FiiT For Life’s CPD courses, which include eight modules that coaches can do individually or as a whole, gives them “the guidance, confidence and support to work with these individuals,” she explained. 
  • The courses have been designed by academics, doctors and Level 4 practitioners using the most up to date research in clinical exercise prescription. Along with CIMSPA (professional body in the UK) accreditation, Redwood-Mills is hoping to have them recognized as preferred courses by CrossFit LLC.

The big picture: Changing the way fitness and gyms are viewed in the UK is the key to helping people, not just put chronic diseases into remission, but to avoid them altogether, Redwood-Mills said. And in order to do that, coaches must become more equipped and confident to work with people with chronic diseases.

  • “People in the UK (right now) see exercise as a luxury, but it’s not. It’s so potent that drug companies are scared of it…We want to get functional training (and) CrossFit to be part of the treatment plan for those who have or are at risk of chronic disease,” Redwood-Mills said.
  • She added: “If someone is physically active and can improve their day-to-day function, you’re going to alleviate all kinds of conditions. We know this. It’s a no brainer.” And on the coaching end, sometimes all they need is “a bit of confidence that they’re doing the right thing.”

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