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Suffolk: Boost for ‘most active county’ bid after rise in number of people exercising three times a week

07:30 09 June 2014

High-profile events such as the Women's Cycling Tour have boosted health and fitness levels in the county.

High-profile events such as the Women's Cycling Tour have boosted health and fitness levels in the county.

Increasing numbers of people in Suffolk are now exercising three times a week, boosting the county’s bid to become the “most active” in England.

There has been a significant rise – from 20% to 25% – in people reaching the recommended 30 minutes of exercise three times a week in the last two years, a new report reveals.

Cycling and running are among the growth areas in Suffolk - with nearly 4,500 people registered for the Parkrun initiatives in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich, Brandon and Great Cornard - but the project is also focusing on “everyday” opportunities for people to be active, such as walking.

There will now be increasing work with children, older people, those on low incomes with poor access to facilities, and people with learning disabilities to further improve the figures.

The news comes on the day the Queen’s Baton Relay for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games arrives in Suffolk.

Joanna Spicer, chairman of Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board, which will discuss the latest findings on Thursday, said progress in the multi-agency approach to make Suffolk the most active county was “absolutely” being made.

The scheme was launched to use the London Olympics and Paralympics to promote active lifestyles through sport and leisure and address the “barriers” preventing people from leading healthier lives.

The latest research found 25.3% of people in Suffolk carried out exercise three times a week in December 2013, a rise from 20.9% when the bid launched in February 2012.

People in the county doing 30 minutes of exercise once a week rose from 31.7% to 33.9% in the same time.

Mrs Spicer said: “This is a long-term project but the early signs are very promising.

“By focusing on everyday opportunities to be active as part of your daily routine, like walking and cycling, we hope to create further improvements in the figures and create a healthier Suffolk.

“Looking ahead, the focus on young children in their early years will help to create active lifestyle habits for life, and this includes active travel to school as well as a supporting the sport and physical activity opportunity in every community.

“In terms of our ageing population we recognize the need to promote physical activity as a key constituent of ageing well in Suffolk, helping to prevent many avoidable illnesses – all the medical evidence points to physical activity as one of the best buys in avoidable ill health prevention.”

The report also found that 56.4% of people in Suffolk achieve 150 minutes every week of any physical activity, such as gardening or walking.

Meanwhile, almost one in five people get on their bikes at least once during the week.

Peter Ling, of the Cyclists’ Touring Club, credited the “Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome effect”, as well as the Women’s Tour held in the county last month, for boosting cycling figures.

“Cycling has a broad appeal and people are getting the message the sport has real health benefits,” he said.

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