Medical charity fundraisers and exercise during COVID-19

The COVID-19 global pandemic has had a huge impact on financial stability to many households. Charity, it is said, begins at home, but doesn’t end there as there are many less fortunate than ourselves. This is particularly true during this uncertain time of COVID-19 with redundancies, closure of industries and lack of childcare due to school closures. Unsurprisingly, these are more likely to affect the lowest earners in our society.

I was grateful that the public has supported the NHS so generously over the last few months; the hot meals donated were a definite morale booster. Yet I also feel uncomfortable that so many others are more in need. There was an 81% increase in the need for emergency food parcels in the first surge of coronavirus; and 1.8 million people signed up to Universal Credit. Furthermore the income for charities is under threat; as Trends has previously posted. Indeed, big sporting fundraisers, such as the London Marathon, are postponed or cancelled and charity shops closed. On average, charities report that they are expecting a 24% reduction in total income for the year which equates to a £12.4 billion loss in total. 

Lockdown was challenging enough, but some have spent time completing sporting challenges to raise money for charity. Indeed, exercise is one of the few ways that people can find mental and physical freedom (albeit locally) during lockdown. The first notable sporting challenge of lockdown started on Instagram by 27-year-old Olivia Strong, who saw people running and thought a simple ‘run 5, donate 5, nominate 5’ would create a spread (ironically) in charitable donations. The result was many sweaty selfies on social media, including celebrity faces, and raising over £2 million for NHS Charities. Since then the two, charity and exercise, have been a fruitful partnership despite COVID-19.

I say exercise, but by far the highest fundraiser came from Captain Tom Moore who walked 100 laps around his home totalling 2.5km (1.6 miles) and surpassed £30 million in fund raised. He inspired the nation that efforts of the individual could help the many; namely the NHS and those affected by COVID-19. Furthermore, with many separated from elderly loved ones and VE day occurring during lockdown, he reminded us of an inspiring generation who gave us our today.

Being indoors did not stop people challenging themselves to do ridiculous sporting endeavours for charity. This includes two friends from my running club (Midnight Runners) – George Watkins running a marathon in his garden (15/04/2020) raising £3,500 for the NHS. Plus, Jessie Lewis completing an Iron(wo)man in her house (‘swam’ indoors using pulleys, a home spin bike and a local marathon route outside) raising over £600 for Mencap (5/5/2020). Other friends have found ingenious ways of continuing hobbies indoors, such as Max Raymond building a climbing wall in his staircase. There were also multiple reports of people climbing the equivalent of Everest on their stairs. Indeed, home workouts via apps, social media and (of course) Joe Wickes have become the new ‘normal’ as gyms and fitness classes are cancelled.

Then as exercise became unlimited, other charitable endeavours were attempted, although still within the constraints of government advice. I decided, along with BSoT (BAUS Section of Trainees) committee members to organise a ‘virtual fun run’. This asked our urology community to do an exercise of their choice (run/ walk/cycle) during the week of what would have been our BAUS Annual Meeting; participants then uploaded a photo to Twitter with the hashtag #BSOTFunRunforTUF and donated to The Urology Foundation. Over 90 participants took part and raised over £2000. It was amazing to see the response all over the UK, the sporting efforts and the (slightly) competitive nature of urologists! Perhaps even more impressive is my cycling-mad brother Will (Scott) and his friend Matt Exley who were planning a charity cycling challenge from Lands End to London ‘too see how far they could get’ on the Summer Solstice; but was cancelled to due COVID-19 restrictions. Instead they cycled 500km sunrise-to-sunset doing 146 laps of the same 3.5km circuit raising over £2000 for Mind.

Exercise has proven mental and physical health benefits, which Trends has also previously discussed. I enjoy running and the sense of freedom it brings; there is nothing like the simplicity of fresh air and greenery while exploring my local area. The COVID-19 Lockdown has seen sportwear buying habits and exercise patterns change. Therefore, I hope that these healthier pastimes and habits will continue, and these charitable endeavours will inspire us to donate. Sadly, there are more in need and less people able to help. Yet we can all help others during this unprecedented time – no matter how large or small the gesture. This can include supporting food banks, encouraging people’s charitable challenges and organising your own fundraiser – what can YOU do to help?

Comments (4) Add yours ↓
  1. Nicola Stingelin Ethicist

    Thanks for this nice text. Indeed COVID has seen some upsides, for instance regarding exercise.

    On the other hand am I alone in wondering what is at the root of some hesitations in the preparedness to re-engage with the working world? Clearly COVID-19 has allowed many people who battle with social phobias, anxieties and fragilities in various guises to relax and live the more isolated life that they crave. Box-sets enjoyed alone-at-home is suddenly more than OK – it is arguably an obligation.

    Are some hesitations in the preparedness to re-engage due also to some people having enjoyed COVID-19 letting them off-the-hook of the pressures to be clever, fit and lovely? COVID-19 granting permission to be a coach-potato?

    I was also struck a few days back by a comment made in an RSM COVID-19 event that the one thing that the English government has excelled at during the crisis is their success in instilling fear in the population. This is surely a problem when the level and specifics of the fear are not supported by the facts surrounding COVID-19.

    Am I alone at being surprised (and dismayed) by the depth and extent of some fears that are being exhibited – the seeming willingness to embrace fear as a reason to remain outside of ‘normal’ life?

    Nicola Stingelin

    July 3, 2020 Reply
  2. Michael Kirby Professor

    So far there are no published studies of the spread of the novel coronavirus from one person to another in outdoor settings. One recent study of 318 outbreaks of three or more Covid-19 patients found all but one transmission occurred indoors—but as with many studies being conducted right now, that report was published as a pre-print in MedRxiv by a team of researchers at Hong Kong University and Southeast University in Nanjing, China, which means it has not yet been peer-reviewed.

    Bert Blocken, professor of aerodynamics at Eindhoven University of Technology, who was the lead researcher on the simulation study in a wind tunnel, has suggested that it would be safer if people run or walk beside each other.
    This is as his modelling suggests that runners, cyclists and walkers could be spreading pathogens, including possibly coronavirus, to people who are behind them in their ‘slipstream’. The modelling found that the larger the distance between the runners, the less likely that the person behind is exposed.
    The study has not been peer reviewed, but it sounds sensible advice.

    July 4, 2020 Reply
  3. Louise de Winter The Urology Foundation

    I’d like to thank Sophie, her colleagues and all the 90+ people who took part in the BSoT Fun Run for TUF last month. It really was an inspiration and the amazing £2,000 + raised for The Urology Foundation will help us to keep our obligations to fund training and research going during this difficult time. As she mentions, charities have been severely hit by the pandemic and lockdown with many of our planned fundraising events cancelled. Research has been paused and in some cases is not able to restart as the interruption would make findings invalid. There is no way of telling when things will get back to ‘normal’, putting fundraising for next year at risk, with potentially less money for grants and research. I think Nicola (above) makes a good point about whether the public’s fears are in excess of their risk. At some point, we really will have to commit to going back to normal: to sitting on trains, working in offices, going to the gym, theatre and cinema and eating in restaurants. If we can’t get the wheels on the economy turning soon, the social and cultural life that makes life worth living may not be there, with a huge impact on our collective mental wellbeing. The ability to exercise and run, walk or cycle – and to do it for charity – has been a life saver during these times for those of us fortunate to be able to do so. It would be great if this is the point at which more people really start to think about their health and wellbeing and continue to make time for exercise so that we become fitter and healthier going forwards.

    July 4, 2020 Reply
    • Nicola Stingelin Ethics Advisor to NHS, academia and the private sector

      Louise, I agree 100%. Some of the sentiments, arguments and ‘rationality’ driving behaviour and COVID decision may have a laudible genesis, but are worryingly.

      COVID-19, half-time? No. Bad metaphor.

      The Covid-19 virus is now a part of our world, being largely a consequence of a section of the planet squandering our advantages and living enquiring lives. Mind you, other consequence of this ‘squandering ‘ include Prokofiev, both Francis Bacons, Shakespeare, Graham Green, sport, even football – what you will.

      As ethicist I am at the front of the queue in arguing that ‘autonomy’ and ‘free will’ are only only really valuable when we are free to do wonderful, silly, possibly ‘irrational’ things (without debilitating collateral damage to others).

      Joyous responsible squandering as art form, and vital life content?

      Whilst thinking about ‘rationality’ and COVID decision drivers, I am probably not alone (especially as cancer patient in remission), in feeling a direction-less anger at the unnecessary deaths of younger people caused by tragic decisions that had to be taken that led to cancer treatments being halted. Decisions made with the best intentions that with hindsight arguably over-prioritized COVID-19.

      Covid-19: So much written; so many publications. How can all health professionals do our part in ensuring that the forward looking analysis and guidance urgently needed gets done utilizing all evidence now being gathered?

      Nicola Stingelin, Ethics Advisor to NHS, academia and the private sector

      July 6, 2020 Reply

Your Comment

All comments are moderated. Trends in Urology & Men’s Health reserves the right not to publish material we deem inappropriate.

Web design and marketing agency Leamington Spa