Figures released by Sport England show that while Surrey still isn’t quite back to the levels of activity it saw pre-pandemic, people across the county are moving more, with one notable exception by age. And one council area has had a rapid gain in the last year.
The latest Active Lives report measures how many people are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendations for activity levels, and finds that 66.8% of adults in Surrey were considered active (doing more than 150 minutes of some sort of activity per week). This is up 1.4% from the same period last year.
Surrey’s return to fitness isn’t quite as rapid as that of the rest of the South East, or the country as a whole but we’re still the fourth most active county in England.
There’s even better news on those considered inactive (people who manage less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per week), perhaps suggesting that messages around the importance of staying fit is reaching those most in need.
At 21.1% Surrey’s inactivity measure fell faster compared to the country as a whole, But it still leaves one in five of us - over 200,000 people - not doing anywhere near enough to cut out own risk of poor health in the future.
Activity winners and losers
After the previous Active Lives report we speculated that the loss of the daily commute may have contributed to Surrey’s decline in activity levels, with fewer people walking and cycling to work. Now that workplaces have opened up that ‘active travel’ effect may be coming back, but regular working from home for some could mean we don’t return to our previous highs for a little while yet.
At a national level, active travel was still around 25% lower than pre-COVID, but if there’s one thing that repeated lockdowns appear to have been good for it was walking for leisure, which increased by roughly the same amount.
Team sports have made a slight comeback from the darkest days of the pandemic but are still around a third lower. Fitness classes and gyms were also badly affected over the year as people lost (or were forced to lose) their activity habits.
Some audiences are still badly served
Though a significant proportion of people over 55 are still not moving enough, it’s good to see that activity levels in this group are back to near normal as restrictions have eased.
Conversely, alarm bells are ringing for the future as those aged 16-34 are exercising less. Pre-pandemic, this group was already reporting lower levels of activity than previous years, but that’s accelerated; compared to five years ago a million fewer young people in England are now ‘active’.
Disabled people, those from poorer areas and ethnically diverse groups all continue to be less active, with knock-on effects for their long-term health.
Mole Valley and Waverley lead the way
At a borough and district level, Mole Valley and Waverley are the most active with 70% of residents active, followed by Elmbridge (69.3%) and Surrey Heath (68.9%).
Mole Valley has seen a significant increase in the percentage of people doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week – up 8.1% on the year. Since Active Lives reporting started in 2015/16, Tandridge has seen the biggest overall gain – up 10.7%.
By contrast, in the most inactive borough, three in ten people manage less than 30 minutes a week
Commenting on the results, Active Surrey’s Managing Director, Lil Duggan said:
“It’s good to see that Surrey’s COVID recovery is continuing, with more people physically active than the last comparable year. And it’s arguably even better that the figure for those who do less than 30 minutes per week – or are inactive - continues to fall sharply, though there’s clearly more to do.”
“The pandemic highlighted how moving more can help us fight infection, but it also plays a major role in boosting our mental wellbeing. All of us in Surrey can cut our own health risks by consciously choosing to walk, cycle or exercise a little more.”
You can view updated trends in Surrey activity levels, or click for the latest Active Lives report from Sport England.