The last 12 or more weeks has been a tough time for most and has thrown all forms of normal routines into chaos, challenges have been faced by many sectors of society and hopefully the majority of people have safely come through this period.
Here at Active Humber we conducted a survey about individuals and their attitudes and behaviours towards physical activity during this time. This mirrored a national Sport England survey, but could let us see how the Humber compares. At a glance, we can see that nationally a third of people were doing 30 minutes or more physical activity on at least 5 days of the week, locally our survey suggests that is higher and up to half of all adults meeting this threshold.
I wrote a blog in late March, ‘One Week In (Almost) Lockdown - Any Positives?’ reflecting on the initial lockdown period and drawing out some of the positive aspects that were being seen. This blog looks back at the 12 weeks of lockdown and the easing of restrictions and looks to see what positives remain and how people have coped.
Let’s start with looking at physical activity, at the start of lockdown, we were permitted one daily exercise session outdoors and from what I could see, a lot of people were taking up that opportunity. Active Humber has asked residents of the Humber during lockdown if they have been active and how; the survey was fairly representative of the Humber area.
As lockdown has progressed and restrictions have eased, although the numbers I have seen outside exercising has lowered slightly from the first weeks of lockdown, there are clearly more people taking exercise opportunities than a similar time before Covid-19 and this is reflected in our survey with 45% of respondents doing more now than before.
As expected people feel there are less opportunities to exercise at present, which suggests those that need facilities or are part of team sports may have faced challenges to keep active. However to be physically active does not rely on facilities and the activity with the greatest engagement by far is walking, with 85% of respondents citing this as an activity.
A significant increase has been seen with home activity both online and offline, with 38% of people exercising at home, which is expected given the situation and it has been great to see how many opportunities have been provided on line to suit a range of audiences. Conversations turn towards what elements of virtual opportunities and home workout can be kept to keep up the momentum as we move into the future? Utilising this opportunity is not just something that is valuable during the pandemic, but it also opens up opportunities for people to engage in a way that suits them and has been well supported by individuals and organisations that can provide content of interest to people of all ages and abilities.
Lastly, we know that being physically active is good for both of our physical and mental health and there is a lot of evidence available that as professionals we know about but not all individuals either know about it or act upon it. It was pleasing to see 85% of respondents value physical activity and its importance and 65% of people seeing it as more important during this time than before. On face value this is really positive, however during this time we have seen certain communities and audiences more affected by the Coronavirus and the whole situation widen some inequalities that already exist. Therefore looking forwards we must ensure that we are working with those most at need to support them to understand their own health and physical activity needs, if we are going to ensure we tackle these inequalities.
The original blog in March also highlighted a number of other positives that were being seen through the initial lockdown period. Such as the increased use in technology, the online learning, the feelings of praise towards key workers and the reduction in traffic and pollution. Much of these remain 12 weeks further on such as technology has become essential and people are seeing its benefits, I am certain this will continue, bringing many benefits, but we need to be wary of other consequences, physical interaction cannot always have the same positive effect as meeting someone face to face, as evidenced by the welcome news that family and friends can begin to meet.
Other aspects were always set to change with the situation, for example traffic is gradually increasing on our roads. However, it is promising that some of the positives seen during lockdown are being proactively planned to continue. Traffic levels may rise, but the planned Government investment into cycling and walking and active travel, will mean our environments change to allow us to change, but will our behaviours follow suit?
The situation we find ourselves is constantly changing and we hope that we see the virus reduce and continue to be managed allowing for a new normal life to take hold. However we must keep asking ourselves how do we want the future to look rather than falling back to old ways? The pandemic has certainly highlighted some changes that we would all like to keep and some real challenges we all wish to overcome. Stay safe, follow Government guidance and share stories of how things may have changed for the better so we can all make improvements for a better future.
You can discover more about the Insights from across the region and nationally by visiting theInsights section of our website.