Why exercise can help you to beat loneliness

Former Ipswich Town and England footballer Terry Butcher joins a Sporting Memories session at Lowest

Former Ipswich Town and England footballer Terry Butcher joins a Sporting Memories session at Lowestoft Library. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

Sport and physical activity are vital to addressing feelings of isolation, a major conference on health and fitness in the county has heard.

National and local experts made the warning at the Most Active County Conference held at Wherstead Park, Ipswich, which looked at key statistics on the benefits of physical exercise and examples of good practice.

The warning also comes as the East Anglian Daily Times today launches its groundbreaking 64-page Move pull-out, designed to show simple and easy ways people can keep active - whether it is by going for a walk or cycling around the area.

Addressing the conference on Monday, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for health James Reeder said: “We now know that isolation, loneliness and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and worse for you than obesity.

“Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression and they have a 29% increased risk of early death.

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“Sport and physical activity give people and communities a reason to come together, kick-starting friendships and strengthening social networks which, in turn, start to breakdown feelings of isolation and loneliness.”

One of the examples showcased at the event was Sporting Memories, which tries to help older people reignite a passion for sport through events at libraries and other community buildings.

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Tony Jameson-Allen, co-founder of the Sporting Memories Network, said: “Sporting Memories uses the power of sport to reignite and reconnect isolated older people, especially those living with dementia, depression and loneliness.

“Our experience from the 110 free to access community clubs that we run across the UK is that sport is a very powerful tool in helping people to connect with others and with their past, reawakening positive thoughts and feelings that otherwise remain hidden away.

“We can show that this has a direct benefit on the health and wellbeing of the individuals concerned.”

Other Suffolk organisations involved in the event included Dance East, Cotman Housing Association, Involve, a not-for-profit organisation that supports young people and adults with special educational needs and disabilities, and Community Action Suffolk.

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