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Emma Kessie - Why Exeter

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Many of us have embarked upon new fitness regimes in the past 18 months or so - whether it was those early ‘PE with Joe’ sessions at home, or just getting out of the house for a bit of freedom for a walk with the dog - with Exeter being chosen as one of the few Sport England pilot cities across the UK, it makes sense that we’re all doing our best to lead more active lives.

And one person in particular is there cheering us on from the side lines.

As duty manager at the Isca Centre, Emma Kessie is well known in Exeter communities and over the past decade has helped hundreds of people to get fitter and feel healthier. She runs a number of groups across Exeter and says that the sheer number of open spaces in the city offers some brilliant options for people who want to get fitter. 

Emma says: “It’s a fantastic city which has really developed over the years – it’s a great place for the family to live,so close to such  beautiful beaches and stunning countryside!  The local assets such as the doorstep beauties like the valley parks and the sense of community, all make Exeter a great place to feel active.” Local assets and doorstep beauties, like the many Valley Parks around the city, and the wonderful sense of community make Exeter a great place to live and be active.

And since moving back to her childhood home of Exeter after 14 years spent living in London, Emma has helped over 1,500 people through her ‘Couch to 5k’ running groups, fitness sessions, netball clubs, and the many more activities that she is involved with across the city.

She says that listening to the wants of the community means that she can react and put on sessions that people really want in suitable locations, and, of course, in lockdown, this often meant running virtual classes and sessions alongside her team of volunteers, with her 1500+ Facebook group members.

So as somebody who grew up in Exeter and then moved back, what was it about the city that particularly appealed?

“When I lived in Exeter, it felt quite slow and behind the times, but since being back in Exeter things have 100% moved forward. It’s vibrant, and a great environment for the family. I don’t see myself living anywhere else now.”

And if you’re somebody in Exeter who hasn’t quite made the first move to embark upon a new fitness routine, Emma has some encouraging words of advice:

“Take one step at a time. Small steps lead to long-lasting changes so find something that suits your ability and gradually increase over the weeks and implement new choices to your week. Get in touch with the group or activity that you want to take part in to get more information so you understand what you may need to bring along with you, or you can even get to speak to the leader to chat through the activity.”

To find out about any of the groups that Emma and her colleagues run across Exeter each week, search for Active Devon on Facebook or go to