Guest Blog by Sarah Ruane, Strategic Lead for Health, Sport England
There are hundreds of articles and research papers on the role physical activity can play in preventing, reducing the risk of and managing multiple common diseases, with policy makers and academics, regularly citing it as the ‘miracle cure’. You will also be able to think of friends or family members for whom moving more and being active has made their life better.
Despite this, 26% of the population are inactive (they take part in less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week). This average also masks stark inequalities. Those with a long-term health condition are almost two times more likely to be inactive than the rest of the population. This also increases the more health conditions a person has.
This is an injustice that needs addressing and is possible if there is collaboration with expert partners like the Richmond Group of Charities (RGC), who understand the needs, barriers and motivations of those with health conditions and have access to hundreds of professionals and volunteers with millions of touch points with people who could benefit from physical activity, per year.
Insight from focus groups and other projects consistently tell us that some inactive people feel so far removed from what they consider ‘being active’ (the gym or sport) or an ‘active person’ (young and fit) is. Additionally, that it is hard to see what being active could be for them, instead it seems unachievable and unattainable.
For some, barriers to moving more are also exacerbated by the day to day challenges of managing a health condition and symptoms such as pain and fatigue, in addition to how daunting becoming active can be, if you don’t know what to do or have the right support around you.
That’s why a partnership between Sport England and some of the countries leading health and social care charities is so important. When diagnosed with a health condition, millions of people rely on the trusted expertise of health charities to help manage their condition or symptoms. Millions more family members and their carers seek advice, wanting to know how they can support their loved one to help them live as well as possible and for as long as possible.
Incorporating physical activity advice has to be done sensitively, at the right moment, with the most effective message and delivered by the most appropriate person. There also needs to be adequate behaviour change support for people and the right environment provided. The RGC are seeking to explore this through a variety of projects which vary from charity to charity but are designed to be transferable (in terms of their possible replicability by other RGC members or through sharing learning).
For example, some projects will be focussing on providing better practical support, advice and guidance on how to be active such as a telephone health coaching service, new guides, or offering activity within peer-to-peer support group sessions. Others will conduct more research into what prevents people from being active regularly, so more appropriate support can be given. As well as the individual projects, the charities will also be exploring how they could talk about physical activity together for greater impact.
What unites these projects, is the very reason the collaboration is so crucial – the need to collectively understand people’s lived experience of the conditions which affect them and what can be done to help them live healthier and happier lives. Reducing the inequalities that exist for people with health conditions will remain only an aspiration if we don’t.
What is so exciting about this physical activity partnership, is the very real ambition and shared drive to work together across the charities, learn, share and most importantly, act on this learning.
For further information - www.sportengland.org/richmondgroup
- Sport England is working with charities from The Richmond Group to deliver a series of projects that could improve the health of millions of people.
- It has awarded £1.3 million of National Lottery funding to projects to be delivered by Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Breast Cancer Now, British Lung Foundation, Diabetes UK, MS Society, Rethink Mental Illness, and Stroke Association.