Latest research on levels of physical activity

23rd April 2020 | Covid-19, Gloucestershire, Research

Sport England released their annual survey in March which shows trends in physical activity to the end November 2019. This data will not reflect the impact of the Coronavirus.

However, since the lock down Sport England have run weekly surveys to try and understand the impact of lock down on physical activity.

From the annual survey to November 2019, we can see that:

  • More people were becoming active across England 63.3% up from 62.6%. Significantly, younger people (18-34) are becoming less active.
  • In Gloucestershire, where more of us are active, there has been a slight rise to 67.5%, but this is not significant.
  • Activity levels have increased in Tewkesbury, Stroud and the Cotswolds.

Since the end of March and the restrictions resulting from the Coronavirus, the Sport England research shows that:

  • There has been a significant disruption of usual physical activity behaviours across England, with proportionately more adults doing less exercise than they were before (41% doing less v 31% doing more). There has been a dip in the number of women being regularly active, prior to the restrictions levels of activity amongst women had been on a continual increase. International tracking by Fitbit has highlighted a 8% drop in people’s ‘steps’ in the UK too.
  • However, there is a recognition of the importance of being physically active during the pandemic, with 62% of adults thinking it is more important to be active during the outbreak compared to other times. Of those who are active, 69% of adults agree that exercise is helping them manage their physical health.
  • The government’s inclusion of physical activity in the permitted daily movement outside the home is thought to have encouraged this. 53% of adults in England agree that they have been encouraged to exercise by the government’s guidance.
  • Sport England’s results, in their second weekly survey, indicate that less people have a problem with exercising on their own.
  • Some groups are finding it harder to be active during the outbreak, including:
    • older people
    • people on lower incomes
    • those living in urban areas
    • those living alone.
  • Mental health, and in particular anxiety, has been a prevalent theme since the restrictions. As soon as the lockdown began, we set up our own ‘listening research’ to find out what was being discussed and shared on social media, before deciding on how we might communicate our work. We found that the most common national hashtags all related to worries. Research by the Academy of Medical Sciences and mental health charity MQ, found 20% of the general population are now concerned about mental illness, and this is higher amongst women (28% vs 13% of men). Those with lived experience of mental health issues are at a significant risk too.
  • People are using physical activity to manage their mental health (65% of those who are active say this), and ‘staying connected’ is an area identified by people as a way of managing their mental health too.
  • In terms of what the public expect of charities right now, it is about taking concrete action in the ‘here and now’ (nfpsynergy), with a preference for charities to support those people at risk (64%) rather than providing advice and information (27%).
  • However, some charities are already struggling from a drop in income, and those dealing with vulnerable people are campaigning around the impact this will have on their services, in particular on services to address mental health (UK Youth Movement).

How has Active Gloucestershire responded as a result of this?

  • We are sharing virtual in-home activity opportunities across all age groups on social media, through email communications to those signing up to our newsletter, and on the we can move website.
  • We are trying to prioritise reaching out to the most vulnerable, for example:
    • widening publicity and access to the older adults ‘Fall Proof’ resources
    • maximising the support in low income areas e.g. virtual school games alternative
    • using existing channels who reach the most vulnerable to share our resources.
  • We are framing our messaging around the benefit to mental health of being active.
  • We are reviewing the changes this situation has brought for both the people in Gloucestershire and the organisations who support them, in relation to our ongoing strategy.

If you would like to discuss any of this, please get in touch.

See more data and research on our Insight Hub.

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