More of us playing sport but almost half still inactive

The Suffolk GP Federation is proposing a significant number of strategically-placed centres, which w

The Suffolk GP Federation is proposing a significant number of strategically-placed centres, which will be made available out of hours, to give patients better access to urgent services. - Credit: EDP, Archant

With almost daily warnings about lack of exercise and constant reminders of its financial drain on our health service, it seems more people in Suffolk are taking heed and fighting the dangers of inactivity.

New figures show that the number of people regularly taking part in sport is rising across the county – but almost half of us have not taken the recommended 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on a single occasion in the last month.

So what is being done to promote more activity and inspire healthy lifestyles?

According to Sport England, 15.6 million people (35.8%) aged 16 and over in England are playing sport at least once a week – an increase of 1.6m since 2005/6.

Here in Suffolk, the number of people taking part in regular sport and active recreation has also risen.

Of 3,578 people asked, 56.4% said they got half-an-hour of moderate intensity exercise on at least one day of the last month – with one person in every 10 being active at least three times a week.

But that still leaves thousands of us doing little or no exercise, despite being continually alerted to the dangers of inactivity.

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In February 2012, a bid was launched to make Suffolk the “most active” county in England.

It aimed to use the success of the Olympics and Paralympics to promote active lifestyles through sport and leisure, and to address the “barriers” preventing people from leading healthier lives.

Since its launch, the numbers taking part in regular sport and recreational activity have increased across the county. But the rise was no more significant than it had been year-on-year since Sport England’s survey began in 2005.

According to the poll, Mid Suffolk was the district where people have made the biggest changes to their lifestyles since 2005, with a 9.2% increase in the number participating in sport and active recreation three times a week.

But Forest Heath still holds the title of “fittest” district, with 29% of people being active at least three times a week.

Alan Murray, Suffolk County Council’s head of health and adult care, said: “I welcome the positive increase over recent years of more people taking up sport and physical activity.

“However we all still have a way to go, through the many events we have planned throughout 2015 we hope these will inspire more across the county to take up cycling or some form of sport and physical activity, assisting us in our bid to become the most active county in England.”

Recent news of the world’s best female cyclists returning to Suffolk for this year’s Women’s Tour of Britain was met with delight not only by tourism chiefs hoping for another boost to the economy, but also healthy living exponents looking forward to an upsurge in enthusiasm for cycling.

Meanwhile, Suffolk Sport, the county’s sports partnership, is hoping to get more people active by providing opportunities to for them achieve their sporting goals.

The new This Girl Can campaign to tackle the barriers that stop millions of women being more active was launched at the beginning of the year by Sport England.

Last October a new £100,000 grant scheme encouraging people to boost physical activity in the outdoors was announced by the county’s public health team.

The county council has also offered partnership funding for volunteers to organise Great Run Local events like the one that has taken place in Southwold since last July, giving more than 500 runners the chance to complete a one or three-mile distance every Sunday morning.

Mr Murray, who also unveiled a strategy for the development of disability sport and physical activity in December, added: “The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games was a major milestone in our sporting history and sparked a lot of interest from disabled people looking for opportunities to take part in sport and physical activity.

“Never the less the harsh reality is that four out of five disabled people in England still do not meet recommended activity levels.

“This strategy is the first stage of a journey to change perceptions, increase participation and empower disabled people to play sport and be physically active. It is an important step in our ambition to become the most active county in England.”