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Active Lives for All critical to Greater Manchester’s recovery

Latest data shows that the pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on activity levels across Greater Manchester. 

The damaging impacts of inactivity, on our physical and mental wellbeing are well evidenced and widely understood. An active life is important for all of us and is a priority within Greater Manchester’s Living with Covid Resilience Plan.

The data, from Sport England’s Active Lives survey, shows that 30 percent of adults in the region were missing out on the benefits of movement and physical activity during the height of the pandemic (May 20-21). This means they were active for less than 30 minutes a week. 

Greater Manchester communities were under tighter Covid-19 restrictions for longer periods of time than other areas of the country and this had far reaching consequences on all aspects of life. Physical activity levels across the region decreased by 2.4%, compared to the 12-month period before the pandemic (Nov 18-19) when activity levels were improving at twice the rate of the national average. 

However, despite all the restrictions, fears, and pressures of the pandemic, nearly 70% (69.5%) of adults in the region were still able to be active for at least 30 minutes a week, which is testament to the resilience of people and communities and all the organisations that adapted so they could still provide activity opportunities. People in the region’s schools, physical activity sector and beyond worked tirelessly to create the conditions for physical activity and sport to continue, working within the restrictions and limitations on daily life.

The latest picture for children (aged 5-16 years old) is showing the early signs of recovery. Sport England’s recent Active Lives Children & Young People survey shows a 2.1% increase in active children in Greater Manchester compared to the same survey 12 months ago. This covers the academic year Sept 20 – July 21, which includes the New Year closure of schools. 

Whilst this is promising news, children’s activity levels remain lower than before the pandemic began, highlighting the need to continue support for all children and young people across the region. 41.7% of children & young people are active for at least 60 minutes a day in Greater Manchester, which equates to 168,000. This means that 234,500 children are not meeting the recommended guidelines of 60 minutes a day. 

The physical activity levels of particular groups of adults within the 10,500 people surveyed across Greater Manchester, have been disproportionately impacted by Covid, for example:

  • Inactivity amongst 16–34-year-olds increased by 4.2% since before the pandemic (Nov 18-19 data)
  • People of South Asian origin experienced an increase in inactivity of 13.6% since before the pandemic compared to the average increase of 2.4% for all adults across the region in the same time frame
  • Those with long-term limiting illness or disabilities have seen a 2.4% increase of inactivity since before the pandemic Nov 18-19. Inactivity rates remain much higher (45.6%) compared to those without limiting illness or disability (25.6%)
  • The gender gap on inactivity has closed since pre-pandemic, driven by greater increases in inactivity amongst men (4.3% increase) than women (4.1% increase).

The survey did highlight some anomalies and positive trends amongst certain groups and in particular places, for example; 

  • Bury experienced a rise in active lives (6.3%) compared to the previous 12 months.
  • In Wigan, inactivity in the over 75s fell by 13%.
  • Manchester and Trafford both experienced a narrowing of the gap in active lives of people living with long-term limiting illness or disability compared to those without long-term limiting illness or disability of 10% and 16.3% respectively.
Hayley Lever, Exec Lead of GM Moving and CEO of GreaterSport, a local charity aiming to change lives through movement, physical activity and sport, said: “Figures showing declines in activity levels during the lockdowns aren’t surprising. It was impossible for people to access their usual places for activity. Demands on people’s time and energy were huge. Now restrictions have been lifted we are already seeing signs of change. Together, people and organisations are focussed on the future; individual and collective recovery from this challenging period is possible, with support available for Greater Manchester residents to move more, in ways that work for them. 
“Organisations across Greater Manchester have recently launched the GM Moving in Action in strategy, supporting active lives for all residents across Greater Manchester. As life gets back to normal, we are optimistic for the future and our collective ability to support all residents to experience the benefits of an active life.”

CASE STUDY & FILMING OPPORTUNITY

Pharmacy Walks

10:15 AM every Wednesday

Meet outside Focus Pharmacy, The Keppel Building, Ashton Rd West, 

Failsworth, M35 0AD

An initiative known as ‘pharmacy walks’ has brought Failsworth residents together through accessible walking routes starting at their local pharmacy.

The concept of pharmacy walks developed as part of a whole system effort throughout Greater Manchester. The goal is to get people walking and moving, and spread the message about healthcare and services available to those who may be less able to access the support they need.

Andrea Tait at Oldham Council initiated the project, alongside Claire Marshall at Oldham Sports Development to support the Physical Activity Local Pilot investment. Andrea initially came up with the concept of linking walking and pharmacy care as part of the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. "Public Health wanted to tie place-based working together," she explains. "The connection with pharmacies was based on a previous pilot, which used point-of-care blood testing machines at two pharmacies to help identify pre-diabetes within ‘high-risk groups.
"With the pressures and difficulties of GP access due to the pandemic, residents were increasingly relying on the trust and knowledge of their local pharmacies. Therefore, we felt pharmacies were the ideal meeting point to bring groups of local people together in physical activity and benefit their overall health."

The reach of the walks has been impressive. Every week 20-30 people join the walks. Many of the walkers are people who struggle to socialise and get out and about. That might be because they walk with the aid of a stick or have been encouraged to do more physical activity following a health condition diagnosis. Yet there are also people who need companionship and to meet others in their local areas. The walks open up new chances to connect.

The walks start as close as possible to the pharmacy doors. The aim is that the walkers can readily find out about the health services available to them and can be encouraged to visit the pharmacy if they need support. Imran Khan, Head Pharmacist at Focus Pharmacy in Failsworth, always meets with the walkers. He talks to them about health and lets them know about the services on offer, for example when they can come in and book their flu jab.

If you would like to film and interview the walkers and Hayley Lever, Exec Lead of GM Moving and CEO GreaterSport, please contact Catherine Rees at Move PR to set this up. catherine@movepr.co.uk or 07970 205433

Ends

Editors notes

GreaterSport is a Greater Manchester charity with a clear purpose to Change Lives Together through movement, physical activity and sport. We lead, support and connect people and partners across the system to develop and deliver on the whole system vision and approach to GM Moving in Action.

As an Active Partnership we are part of the national network, working with Sport England to lead and support local implementation of Uniting the Movement.

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