Health fears after lockdown as almost one in four Suffolk adults 'inactive'

People taking part in Nordic Walking in Coddenham

One way to improve fitness - people taking part in Nordic Walking in Coddenham, in a group which started last year with the support of Active Suffolk's Fit Villages project - Credit: Chris Lawson/Active Suffolk

A sport chief has called on Suffolk to get moving after lockdown - after it was revealed nearly a quarter of adults in the county are inactive. 

The latest data from Sport England's Active Lives survey shows 23.5% of adults in the county take part in less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week.

Tony Bush, interim director of Active Suffolk

Tony Bush, interim director of Active Suffolk - Credit: David Garrad

But this only covers the year up to May 2020, with fears the situation could have worsened since, following further lockdowns.

Tony Bush, interim director of Active Suffolk, said: "As everyone would accept, being in lockdown has impacted people's ability to be active. That's what we're noticing at the moment, and it's worrying.

"People with long-term health conditions who found it difficult to access physical activity before the pandemic have found it even more difficult during lockdown.

"One thing we are very aware of is a deterioration, where people who could walk two miles are now struggling to walk a mile."

He said taking regular physical activity was vital to help people combat Covid-19, as well as obesity and other health conditions. 

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"There's no doubt leading an active, healthy lifestyle makes a difference, as Chris Whitty has made clear in his statements.

"The whole county needs to come together on this. More active workers will help the county's economy as well as people's health."

People taking part in a functional fitness MOT test, offered as part of Active Suffolk's Active Wellbeing service

People taking part in a functional fitness MOT test, offered as part of Active Suffolk's Active Wellbeing service - Credit: Laura Beale/Active Suffolk

As leisure facilities reopen under the government roadmap, Mr Bush said some people were nervous about returning.

But he  stressed all organisations that Active Suffolk works with are following safety rules and taking a wide range of measures to build confidence.

There are often particular problems for older people in accessing physical activity - a major issue in Suffolk because of its older population.

Active Suffolk has just announced it is launching its Active Wellbeing service in South Rural Suffolk, to support over-50s in areas including Hadleigh and Holbrook.

People referred by their GP will be helped and supported by a physical activity advisor to access activities in their area. This could range from health walks to carpet bowls or using facilities at a local leisure centre.

But Mr Bush added: "It's not only older people. Children and younger people have also seen a fall in activity levels."

He said Active Suffolk was doing everything it could to improve levels of physical activity and had secured around £430,000 in funding from Sport England for local sports clubs and organisations, with more funding in the pipeline for other projects. 

Active Suffolk projects cover a wide range of ability levels and include dementia-friendly activities and tackling health inequalities.