Suffolk: St Edmundsbury tops sports participation table as county bids to capitalise on the Olympics

THE scale of the challenge facing Suffolk to capitalise on the success of the Olympics can today be revealed.

Figures obtained by the East Anglian Daily Times show the county has the second lowest sport participation rates in the region.

Just one-in-five adults do 30 minutes of exercise on three or more days a week, compared with nearly one-in-four in Cambridgeshire.

Suffolk sports chiefs admit they face “quite a challenge” and point to people’s busy lives as a factor behind the figures.

The statistics, compiled by Sport England, also reveal there are vast disparities between different areas of Suffolk.

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For instance more than one-in-four (26.7%) do half an hour of sport three or more times a week in St Edmundsbury, compared with just one-in-seven in Ipswich.

Terry McEntee, operating manager at Suffolk Sport, said: “It’s likely to be due to a number of factors - anything from socio-economics, to access to investment and the quality of facilities.

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“It’s usually the older age groups which are less active and that’s sometimes down to family commitments or feeling activity is not for them.”

But progress has been made on getting Suffolk people to do more exercise - although 21.3% of Suffolk adults were considered active in April 2012 it is up from 20.1% six years ago.

There is also much being done to tackle the problem, much of which is linked to a bid to capitalise on the legacy of London 2012.

It includes moves to increase competitive sport in schools, improve community sports facilities, encourage 14 to 25-year-olds to carry on with sport and get more volunteers to run sports sessions.

Mr McEntee added: “I think it’s quite a challenge for us, given where we are now.

“But on the positive side there’s a real commitment in Suffolk to address that in a co-ordinated way across the county - there is an initiative to make Suffolk the most active county.

“There’s programmes to encourage people to get into sport and consider at a later stage to become more active.

“One of the biggest challenges we have with participation is the busy lives people lead.”

It comes as the Department of Health announced more than 14,000 schools have signed up the School Games contest - an initiative to get more young people enjoying compeitive sport.

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