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7 Feb 2006

Tai Chi and belly dancing? It’s a far cry from Jam and Jerusalem, but such exotic activities have been helping keep the Women’s Institute abreast of the times in attracting new members.

The trendy sport of golf and the traditional rural pursuit of croquet have also been offered to women across Wales as part of the WI’s far sighted recruitment strategy.

Having run a similar fitness project in 2003 to much success, a new range of active pursuits have made their return to the WI in a bid to engage more women in sport and exercise. Exceeding all targets set, the former Women Into Sensible Exercise (WISE) project – also funded by the Sports Council for Wales – delivered 12 new recreational opportunities for more than 900 participants, including tap dancing, archery, health and fitness workshops and ‘get to know your leisure centre’ classes.

Hoping to match or improve upon WISE, funding of £7,700 from the Welsh Assembly government has allowed the Women’s Institute to provide innovative activities in three new areas. This time concentrating their efforts in Gwent, Glamorgan and Gwynedd Meirionnydd for an initial 12 month trial, the Institute is making ripples in activity levels.

Giving members the opportunity to experience activities they may not have had the means or confidence to try before, activities are in single sex groups with fellow members.

Chair of the Sports Council for Wales Philip Carling said, "One of the main reasons for people - especially women - not taking enough exercise is the fact that they don’t like exercising alone. This project has allowed women to exercise with a peer group they will feel comfortable with and in an environment that is familiar to them."