Suffolk looks for further boost to physical activity to prolong healthy lives

Tony Goldson promoting Suffolk's Most Active County aspiration. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Tony Goldson promoting Suffolk's Most Active County aspiration. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL - Credit: Archant

More than 40% of adults in Suffolk are not doing enough physical activity as needed to maintain a healthy lifestyle according to new figures from the county council.

What are the health benefits of an active life? Grapic: PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

What are the health benefits of an active life? Grapic: PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND - Credit: Archant

But the picture is improving slowly – with fewer adults being physically inactive and more doing some form of exercise on a regular basis.

New figures on physical activity are due to be discussed by the county’s health and wellbeing board on Thursday – and the same meeting will hear about the importance of people working to maintain their health as we face the prospect of working until later in life.

According to a recent survey by Sport England, the number of adults in Suffolk reaching the guidelines for physical activity set down by the Chief Medical Officer for England has increased by 27,100. The number of inactive adults in the county has fallen by 13,300. However 152,600 Suffolk adults are classed as inactive, and a further 81,000 are not active enough to maintain good health. That is 41% of the county’s 563,000 adult population.

Suffolk is aiming to become “The Most Active County” to try to encourage more people to take up moderate physical activity for at least two and a half hours a week. And as well as targeting adults, it is also hoping to ensure more children are active through the Go Kids initiative, a campaign launched in Suffolk last month which encourages youngsters to eat healthy foods and stay active.

What is moderate physical activity? Graphic; PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND

What is moderate physical activity? Graphic; PUBLIC HEALTH ENGLAND - Credit: Archant


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Cabinet member for Health Tony Goldson said: “Physical inactivity is a major public health issue. It has significant life-limiting effects on the individuals concerned and is placing a huge burden on the economy and the health and care system as a whole.

“Through the Most Active County partnership, we recognised these issues some time ago and have been working collaboratively with a range of organisations to make a difference to physical activity levels within the county. We are pleased to say that, thanks to the efforts of many people, we have seen some positive signs of improvement. However, we also recognise the scale of the task in front of us and know that we cannot take our foot off the pedal if lasting and sustained change is to be achieved.

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“Looking forward, our ambition is to bring about greater action on inactivity by working with more organisations to ensure physical activity is integrated into as many aspects of life as possible.”

How important for society is increased physical activity?

Wells Hall Primary school is among those that has started The Daily Mile. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Wells Hall Primary school is among those that has started The Daily Mile. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Experts believe that lack of physical activity means that across Suffolk there are 1,368 years of poor health being lived by the county’s population when people would otherwise be fit.

It is also believed to contribute to 244 premature deaths a year per 100,000 population – which would work out at about 1,700 in a county the size of Suffolk.

And the economic burden of the ill-health caused by a lack of physical activity is significant – it is estimated to cost about £17.7m a year per 100,000 people. In a county the size of Suffolk that would be a bill of about £125m for the NHS and social services to meet every year.

The population is now 20% less active than it was in the 1960s – and there are fears that if the current trends continue across the UK people could be 35% less active by 2035.

The Daily Mile at Wells Hall Primary School. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The Daily Mile at Wells Hall Primary School. Picture: GREGG BROWN

But Suffolk’s success in reducing the number of inactive adults is a beacon for the rest of the country where activity rates are stagnant.

Impact of health on working lives in Suffolk to be discussed by board

In a separate, but related, report to be discussed at the same meeting members of Suffolk’s Health and Wellbeing Board will be asked to support and promote the county’s annual public health report.

This highlights the fact that with an ageing population, people will have to be prepared to work longer in the county – and improving health into later life will be important for Suffolk’s overall productivity.

One issue that Suffolk faces is that many people do routine or manual work – which could become increasingly difficult as they get older.

The report says some people may need to be retrained to do less arduous work – or there might need to be “mid-life interventions” to try to ensure people remain healthy enough to carry on working to an older age than planned.

And in the longer-term it aims to ensure there are more skilled workers who are better able to work longer.

Go Kids aims to get the younger generation active in Suffolk as well

While this week’s meeting is about encouraging adults to get more physical exercise, the county is also part of the Go Kids initiative to try to ensure children live healthily from an early age.

A key element of this is the Daily Mile campaign encouraging youngsters to walk, run or jog for 15 minutes each day while they are at school.

So far 18 schools have signed up for the Daily Mile, and the hope is that a quarter of Suffolk’s primary schools will have joined the scheme by the end of this year.

The scheme is also backed by Ipswich Town, the EADT and Ipswich Star, the East of England Co-op and the Vertas Group which provides school meals in the county – it is also backed by the NHS.

The hope is that the campaign will help to encourage youngsters to be active which will give them the incentive to stay active into their adult lives and prevent health problems in the future.

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