Sarah Scott, Gloucestershire County Council’s Director of Public Health and prevention lead for the One Gloucestershire Integrated Care System (ICS) explains how – and why – Gloucestershire is getting people moving.
The importance of regular exercise in promoting good physical and mental health is well recognised, and here in Gloucestershire, we have invested more than £1.2m to help 30,000 inactive people get moving.
It’s a crucial step towards better health and wellbeing within our local communities because we know that around a third of people across the county don’t meet the national recommendation of 150 minutes’ physical activity per week.
The Gloucestershire Moves initiative was created by the county council, NHS, our local sports partnership Active Gloucestershire and Sport England. Through these organisations we pledge to spread the message that exercise can become part of everyone’s everyday routine.
The initiative encourages people to look at all aspects of daily life including at home and in work; leisure time and travel – helping people to make it just the norm, not something they have to think about doing – or see as a chore.
It is designed to create a culture of daily physical activity, through changes at individual, community and population levels, building a social movement that will inspire everybody in our county to be more active.
In particular, it’s crucial that we encourage young children and families to enjoy more physical activity, because we know that habits picked up before the age of five tend to last until adulthood.
In April 2017 we introduced the Daily Mile where children are encouraged to run, jog or walk a mile every day. It’s been popular with head teachers and schools across the county, with more than half of primary schools joining in.
The Daily Mile team is also working with the Gloucestershire Healthy Living and Learning service to support 58 local schools with low levels of physical activity by suggesting the children have 15 minutes at school every day to run, jog or walk.
It’s a great way for to reinvigorate children when energy or attention levels dip in the classroom. Teachers are reporting that children concentrate better in class and come back from their Daily Mile refreshed and ready to learn, whilst parents tell us that their children are eating and sleeping better.
Another initiative, Beat the Street , appeals to people’s sense of teamwork and competition. First introduced in 2018, the game is all about turning urban areas into spaces for physical activity by encouraging people run, walk or cycle between 90 lampposts or ‘beatboxes’ collecting pint along the way – the further the distance – double the points.
In 2018, the 10,000 people who signed up either walked, cycled or ran 74,487 miles combined in six weeks during the summer. By 2019 10,181 people took part, covering 80,000 miles, this time over eight weeks. Participants included 34 primary school teams and 62 community teams, some of which even saw three generations of families walking together.
The real beauty is that whilst the game gets people up and about, we also use the opportunity to find out more about their health and current activity levels, so that we can keep in touch and help them to stay active in the future.
It’s through this follow-up contact and focus groups that we know these initiatives are starting to make a difference. In 2018, 15 per cent of participants said that they were less active than they should be. That figure has fallen to just eight per cent now, with 88 per cent of children said they felt more active and move more since playing the game.
The effect on overall health has also been positive, with reported scores for wellbeing and mental health improving and people saying they were more motivated to get out and about and spend time being active with their family in the six months after the game finished.
With a great community spirit to support us all in our efforts to get moving, we can all become more active and improve our long term health into the bargain.