Suicide is the leading cause of death for people aged 15 to 44 in Australia. Physical and mental health are inextricably linked.
Combine these two facts and Anytime Fitness’ annual ‘Tread As One’ challenge, held in conjunction with suicide prevention charity R U OK?, makes a whole lot of sense.
“Our core demographic of members sits right in the middle of that age group,” Anytime Fitness Australia general manager Rob Hale says.
“We are in a prime position to do this.”
With 544 clubs across the country and a 17 per cent market share, Anytime Fitness leverages its massive community reach to make the event a success.
Since its humble beginnings in 2017 as a 24-hour treadmill challenge to raise money for and awareness of mental health, Tread As One has extended to a week-long challenge.
Back for the first time since 2019 (thanks, COVID-19), it has also expanded to call on Anytime Fitness members and the general public alike to walk, jog or run on a treadmill, outside or anywhere they like.
“One in five Australians will experience mental ill health every year. The chances of it being you, an immediate family member, your best friend or your partner – it might not be right now but at some point, chances are you’ll be closely affected,” Rob says.
“We’re in 544 local communities. And while we hope to tap into the power of our members, club owners and staff working together, we hope they’ll in turn tap into their communities – their friends, families and colleagues. Because saying you’re part of Tread As One sends a strong message that you are someone they can talk to, someone who is there should they need you.
“Just by virtue of that, this event is bound to have a great outcome.
“For us as well, we have franchisees and staff who have lost people through suicide, so it’s quite a personal alignment for us.”
Tread As One is one of R U OK?’s largest annual fundraisers. In 2019, Anytime Fitness raised about $360,000 for the cause.
R U OK? CEO Katherine Newton says the organisation is thankful for the support of the Anytime Fitness community.
“We’re grateful to have the opportunity to share the R U OK? message through the vibrant Anytime Fitness community,” she says.
“We know that making regular visits to the gym and being part of a gym community can provide an important sense of belonging.
“We want members to look out for each other and feel confident in asking, ‘Are you OK?’ if they notice the signs that someone in their gym community might be struggling with life’s ups and downs.”
Rob says while the group hopes to top the fundraising record this year and smash previous participant numbers, there is a more important goal attached to the numbers.
“There’s a nice tangible benefit to ensuring the R U OK? conversation stays alive and well,” he says.
“It’s knowing this event has such a long reach beyond the week it actually runs, in terms of the funds it raises and what R U OK are able to do with those funds.
“Increasing awareness and the number of conversations – those things are hard to measure and even harder to put a value on.”
Rob says the event has benefits for participants beyond the week.
“This is a way for us to engage members in thinking of their goals – whether that be weight loss, muscle gain, strengthening – differently. Having these goals is terrific but we’re not always drawing the link to how exercise makes us feel.
“It’s a chance to reignite that conversation and make sure people are not obsessed with a number on a scale or their performance in the gym.
“The hope is that mental health becomes top of mind because that’s a healthy way to have exercise in your life – not just metrics.”
Tread As One runs from 22 to 29 October – visit the website to register.
Anyone experiencing distress can seek immediate advice and support through Lifeline (13 11 14), Kids Helpline (1800 55 1800), or the digital mental health gateway, Head to Health.
If you are concerned about suicide, living with someone considering suicide, or bereaved by suicide, the Suicide Call Back Service is available at 1300 659 467.