Hopes of fitness rebound to pre-pandemic physical activity levels
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Public health chiefs are hoping for a post-lockdown fitness bounceback for Suffolk after figures revealed a pre-pandemic incline in activity levels.
Last month, figures showed a drop in physical activity during national lockdowns, but public health bosses are now hoping to see a return to previous levels over the coming months.
A Public Health England data tool has shown that the percentage of physically active adults in Suffolk was steadily rising from 62.5% in 2015/16 to 69.5% in 2019/20.
Andrew Reid, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for public health, public protection and communities, said the figures were a reminder of the positive progress being made in addressing inactivity prior to, and even during the first lockdown.
"While we know there has been a subsequent national decline in physical activity levels as a result of national restrictions, as leisure centres, swimming pools, classes and clubs all had to close, these figures provide us with great hope that there will be a strong rebound in participation levels over the coming months," he added.
Despite more over-16s completing at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, figures showed that one in five completed less than half-an-hour and were classed as 'physically inactive' before the pandemic.
Just 13.1% walked for travel at least three days a week and even fewer cycled (1.7%).
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West Suffolk was home to the highest percentage of regular walkers (14.8%), followed by Ipswich and Mid Suffolk (13.6%), East Suffolk (12.3%) and Babergh (11.1%) – the national average being 15.1%.
East Suffolk reported the highest percentage of regular cyclists (2.5%), followed by West Suffolk (1.7%), Babergh (1.4%), Ipswich and Mid Suffolk (1.1%) – the national average being 2.3%.
And the percentage of physically active children 45.6% also fell just below the average for England (46.8%).
Previously published Active Lives data for the 2019/20 academic year showed that 36.9% of five to 16-year-olds achieved less than 30 minutes of exercise a day – the third most of any county in England.
Mr Reid said the county council had supported people to be active with initiatives like the Keep Moving Suffolk campaign, Love to Ride programme and Walk to School Week challenge.
He said the council also commissioned OneLife Suffolk to deliver a Health Walks programme and the Get Help to Get Active service – supporting inactive adults with long-term conditions – as well as delivering Bikeability training to thousands of schoolchildren every year, organising the Suffolk Walking Festival and maintaining footpaths in both urban and rural locations.
“It’s so important that we have a fit and healthy population," added Mr Reid.
"Not only because it benefits the individual physically and emotionally (physical activity can help to prevent and manage over 20 chronic conditions and diseases), but also because it benefits the health and social care system, the education system, productivity of the work force and the environment, while also helping to break down social isolation.”