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By GreaterSport | 22 October 2020 | TAGS: Active Lives, research, Research and learning

Data released today by Sport England, reveals a downturn in adult activity levels in Greater Manchester on what had been a steady upwards trend in the years prior to the pandemic and underlines the need for partners to continue to unite to keep GM moving.

In the period between May 2019 and May 2020, 72% of adults in Greater Manchester were moving for more than 30 minutes a week. These figures show a downturn on what had been a steady upwards trajectory in the years prior to the pandemic. The survey reveals that there were 1,621,700 adults doing more than 30 minutes of physical activity a week, a decrease of 17,300 from the survey 12 months ago but a total increase of 50,800 since the survey began in 2015-16.

Nationally, there has also been a downturn in activity levels which further analysis by Sport England has found is attributed to lockdown restrictions, steady gains in the first 10 months were cancelled out by the drop in activity levels during this time. It is likely that this pattern will also be seen across Greater Manchester, however, at this time that level of data is unavailable. If this is the case, the trend is a worrying indication of the early impact of Covid-19 on our ability to stay active as a population. It indicates that Greater Manchester partners and communities need to come together more than ever before to support active lives for people of all ages. Greater Manchester falls below the national average of 74.6% and the survey reveals that 632,200 adults are missing out on the wide ranging benefits of physical activity to health, wellbeing and prosperity.

When the number of children moving in Greater Manchester is added to this it totals;

  • 1,907,455 million residents moving for at least 30 minutes a week towards GreaterSport’s 2 million moving by 2021 target.
  • 69.0% of the GM population doing at least 30 minutes a week towards the GM Moving target of 75% by 2025.

Inactivity is one of our most important public health challenges. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted this further. Insight locally and from Sport England’s work, indicate growing inequalities in activity in groups that were already less active. Living a more active life not only offers a wide range of physical health benefits, such as reduced risk of some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and stroke, but also improves mental health.

Hayley Lever Exec Lead for GM Moving and CEO of GreaterSport said: “Physical activity is vital to our mental and physical health and wellbeing, our sense of connection and our relationships. Although many of our daily activities are restricted, there are still many ways to stay active and well. The long term population health of our region depends on our ability to stay active; whether that’s in the home, in our community leisure centres, swimming pools, parks and other outdoor spaces on the doorstep.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to helping our residents to be more active. This sort of data and insight is valuable as together we develop a more in depth understanding and continue to adapt. We firmly believe that together communities and partners across our city-region can respond to the unique challenges of the times we are in.”

Steven Pleasant, Chair of GM Moving, Chief Exec Tameside MBC and Accountable Officer for Tameside and Glossop CCG said: “Clearly these are challenging times for us all and there is much more to do. The time and commitment of people, volunteers, our physical activity and sport sector and across sectors in health, transport and beyond is valued and to be celebrated as we keep learning and working to keep GM moving at an important moment for the health of our adult residents and the sport and physical activity sector.”

Being active improves physical health, can help to reduce obesity and other risk factors associated with the most serious impacts of Covid-19 whilst also alleviating stress and anxiety. One Greater Manchester resident who has benefitted from staying active during the pandemic is Debbie Croston (44) from Westhoughton. Debbie wasn’t always a runner, in fact, she didn’t really know she could run at all. But four years ago, she thought she’d give it and a try.

Starting with small distances and a lot of walking she’d take herself out of the house, getting some space to herself. Over time she managed to get up to 5k and lost 10 kilos. However, a cancer diagnosis and recovery from surgery made running more difficult, and then life got in the way.

By 2019 Debbie had put back on the weight she’d lost. She was itching to run again and started researching groups in her local area. This is when she came across the Howfen Runners a local Bolton running group that welcomes people of all abilities. Speaking about the running group, Debbie said: “Before Covid I’d meet up with the group every Tuesday and Thursday. We’ve got everyone here – from couch to 5kers, to ultra-runners. Everyone is welcome, and we’ll make sure there’s a run suitable for everyone who turns up. Even if there’s more walking than running at first.

“I feel fitter, healthier, happier and I’ve lost weight. 2020 has been a really hard year and having a whole group of people to talk to, and also support, has given me something positive to focus on. Running isn’t just about keeping the body healthy, it keeps the mind healthy too.”

GM Moving is continuing to encourage people to #KeepGMMoving throughout the autumn and winter months. Short films being promoted through digital advertising give fun tips on keeping activity levels up in the home and online information supports people to find their way to move more, at home or outside.

There are many examples of the ways communities, partners and organisations are working together to design moving back into life.

  • A unique exercise, nutrition and wellbeing programme delivered in community leisure centres to help thousands of cancer patients prepare for and recover from major surgery shows how innovative co-working between the leisure and healthcare sectors in Greater Manchester is creating better patient outcomes and NHS savings. Find out more here.
  • A guide to help older people stay healthy at home during the Covid-19 lockdown published by academics at The University of Manchester. Called ‘Keeping Well At Home’, the team have been working with the Ageing Hub at Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) so the resource can reach homes across the region. Find out more here.

Further information about Greater Manchester Moving

The GM Moving Plan, launched and backed by Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham in 2017, set the target to reach 75% of the population active by 2025 and is supported by investment of £12 million, including £10 million from Sport England and £2 million from the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership’s population health plan to deliver the ambition to became the UK’s first walking city-region.

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