Rotorua's Instinctive Fitness is a gym which centres on inclusivity and community involvement.

Last month the gym was recognised for its efforts when it collected the Community Excellence Award at the highly competitive NZ Exercise Awards in Auckland.

Owner Calvin "Mitch" Mitchell believes in better health outcomes for everyone, regardless of age, gender or ability. The best example of this belief is the Pakaru Tinana programme which helps people aged 65 and older to lose weight and reach peak fitness.

Mitchell has also published a children's book, Safari Fitness - Wild New Zealand, which promotes physical activity and regularly takes groups of athletes from the gym to compete in local events. He was also personally a finalist for the Best Group Trainer Award and the book was a finalist for the Innovation Award.

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Perhaps summing up the type of attitude it takes to spread such positivity, he says the Community Excellence Award is a credit to everyone involved, not just himself.

"We were finalists for three awards, but Community Excellence was the main award we wanted to win. It's not my award, it's their award, purely for the commitment they put into themselves and to each other. The group that we have is community based, they stay on top of each other, it's like a family.

"The Pakaru Tinana group is at 67 people at the moment. We put effort into each individual, we have people with all different conditions. We also took a group to do the IronMaōri and we had the largest contingency there, we had 29 competing."

June Marino, 86 (left), Mahora Whiston, 79, Joseph Te Mata Tarei, 80 and Pare Aratema, 79, at Instinctive Fitness. Photo / File
June Marino, 86 (left), Mahora Whiston, 79, Joseph Te Mata Tarei, 80 and Pare Aratema, 79, at Instinctive Fitness. Photo / File

The gym has two Pakaru Tinana waka ama teams entered in the Te Puku O Te Ika Regional Sprint Championships at Lake Karapiro this weekend.

"It is up and down, when you think about it there's 67 grandmothers and grandfathers, it's pretty unbelievable and sometimes it can be quite draining. But, when you see what they've achieved and where they've come from, that's amazing to see.

"I think when you get to a certain age, people kind of segregate elderly people and baby them. I would take that pretty hard if people treated me like a baby after everything I've done in my life. They do mainstream exercises just like any of our classes, just with a lower tempo and intensity."

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He said letting the group know the gym had won the award was a special moment.

"On the award night, I was keeping them updated through Facebook. When we won everyone was pretty much overwhelmed. We did a presentation last Tuesday and there were some tears. It's a lot more than just an award for some of them, some of these people had never stepped into a gym before - now they're triathlon and waka ama athletes and Community Excellence Award winners."

Exercise NZ chief executive Richard Beddie said it was a privilege for his organisation to be able to recognise finalists and winners.

"We also hear stories about how people in the exercise industry are improving the lives of others and inspiring Kiwis to become and stay active," Beddie said.

According to Beddie, exercise is now the biggest sport in New Zealand with participation rates higher than rugby, cricket and netball combined.

"We are seeing huge benefits from the large gym chains helping tens of thousands of members, through to the individual trainers and teachers who help people one-on-one.

"I'm impressed and inspired by the stories of how exercise professionals, exercise facilities and community organisations are improving Kiwis in so many different and creative ways."