Poll: London 2012 impact hailed as exercise levels increase in Suffolk and Essex
EXERCISE levels in Suffolk and Essex have seen a healthy rise over the last year - the first signs of a positive Olympic legacy on the region.
More than a third of Suffolk adults took part in sport for at least half an hour a week in the year to October, up from 31.7% over the previous 12 months.
The picture in Essex was more favourable with nearly two-in-five adults regularly exercising over the 12 months to October, up from 35.5% in 2010-11.
But there are still vast district variations - Braintree with 40.3% and Suffolk Coastal on 39.7% were significantly ahead of Tendring with just 28.9%.
Suffolk County Council’s Adam Baker, who is working to make the county the most active in the country, welcomed the increase.
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He said: “We’re really pleased and we’re really optimistic looking forward but we still recognise there’s lots of work to do.
“Clearly there’s a lot of work to do - despite that increase there’s still more than 50% of the population in Suffolk that do nothing at all.
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“We need to make sure the opportunities are available to people. People will start when they’re ready - there will always be a section of the community where sport is not for them. But we recognise there’s a massive population who still don’t do anything so we need to make it easier for them.”
Mr Baker revealed the council is in discussions with a sports agency about bringing a new biking event to the county - last year it hosted The Tour of Britain and The Tour Ride East Anglia.
He added: “These mass participation events are fundamental in getting people more active. Whether it’s a 10k or the Great East Swim it does get people training. People continue exercising after the event too.”
Councillor Paul Honeywood, portfolio holder for sports facilities at Tendring District Council, said he was keen to improve on the district’s 28.9% figure.
He said: “It could be better, couldn’t it? We need to come up with some ideas to use our facilities better to help this.
“I think people were really pleased with the Olympics and if we can encourage people to maintain that enthusiasm that’s good for everyone.”
In October the East Anglian Daily Times revealed sports pitch bookings at council-run sites in Tendring had dropped by 45% following a hike in charges. But last month the council announced plans to perform a u-turn and revert to 2010 charges.
Hugh Robertson, minister for sport and tourism, said: “One of the key legacy ambitions from London 2012 was to get more people playing sport – something that no other host city has managed to do. These are excellent figures and show that we are making good progress.”