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Risks to health rise as Surrey activity levels see record drop

07/05/2021
Risks to health rise as Surrey activity levels see record drop

The latest Active Lives survey from Sport England shows a marked drop in activity levels for the year. But Active Surrey’s MD believes the county can bounce back to its pre-pandemic highs.

Coronavirus has impacted all aspects of daily life in the last year and people’s ability to stay active has been no exception. Data just released by Sport England shows that in the year to November 2020, those counted as active (being physically active in some way for 150+ minutes a week) fell to its lowest level since the survey began in 2015. 

Similarly, the figures for those doing less than 30 minutes per week – whether that be formal exercise or simple things like walking to the shops or gardening – is at its highest over the same period.

Two boroughs bucked the trend with slight increases in activity but even these were well below their highs from previous years and did little to lessen the overall picture. 

Data at a more detailed population level won’t be available for a few months but national results show that those in certain demographic groups were hit hardest with younger adults, over 75s, disabled people, women, people with long-term health conditions, and those from ethnically diverse communities most affected.

Prior to the pandemic some of these groups were closing the gap on the rest of society but these gains have largely been reversed. Funding initiatives like Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund - which is co-ordinated locally by Active Surrey and has already distributed over £100,000 to clubs and community groups – stopped the situation being even worse, but the overall effect on people’s normal routines was marked.

A recent study of over 48,000 COVID patients from the USA and reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that those who had consistently failed to meet physical activity guidelines were at greater risk of being hospitalised and taken into intensive care, as well as being twice as likely to die from the disease compared to those who moved more. Even without COVID, inactivity is linked to increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and other conditions, and can contribute to mental health problems.

With lockdown restrictions easing, sports clubs, pools, gyms and certain leisure facilities have been able to reopen in a COVID-safe manner and most people are no longer shielding at home. According to the government’s roadmap, exercise classes should also reopen later this month, all of which makes Active Surrey’s Managing Director, Lil Duggan optimistic:

“The immediate effect of coronavirus on the nation’s health has been very clear, but what’s also emerged is that our activity levels have suffered due to the disruption , and we now owe it to ourselves and our families to regain our active habits.

“We are all aware of the impact of coronavirus on the health sector, with staff under huge pressure and waiting times for routine procedures increasing. We have it in our power to help the NHS and make ourselves happier at the same time and it all starts with simple things like walking more, cycling and choosing stairs over lifts. Sports clubs, exercise classes and gyms can then play their part - and help our social life too.” 

“Surrey is traditionally one of the most active counties in England and I’m hopeful that all of those involved in promoting and delivering opportunities for residents will help us reverse the trend seen in the latest Active Lives report.”

 Significant findings from Sport England’s Active Lives report include

  • 65.4% of Surrey adults were defined as active – that is, being physically active for at least 150 minutes per week
  • The active figure dropped 3.3% in the year from November 2019 (months before COVID made an appearance)
  • 23.2% of adults in Surrey – over 220,000 people - reported doing less than 30 minutes of any sort of activity per week and are classed as inactive – up 2.8% year on year.
  • The percentage of active people in Surrey is still higher than the national average, but the drop-off in the county was steeper than England as a whole.
  • From having the second lowest percentage of inactive people for the period May 2019 to 2020, Surrey slipped to fifth for November 2019 to 2020

5,500 Surrey residents were polled to gain these results.

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