Community Leisure UK ezine
August 2020
People seeking exercise for better mental health

28 May 2020

There has been a "surge in appreciation" of exercise during lockdown, with people turning to physical activity to improve their mental health as well as to keep fit.

Findings from a Sport England survey, commissioned to track the public’s activity levels and attitudes towards exercise during the initial six weeks of lockdown, shows that 63 per cent of people now consider exercise as important for their mental as their physical health.

It also shows people have turned to cycling and walking to keep active outdoors, while there's also evidence that new exercise habits – such as families getting active together – are forming as a result of the restrictions on movement.

People’s worries about leaving home to exercise has also eased since the beginning of the lockdown, with only 47 per cent having reservations in week six, compared to 60 per cent in the first two weeks.

“Undoubtedly the current period has been hugely difficult for both the sport and physical activity sector and the general public, yet people are finding a new appreciation for moving more – whether it’s at home or out walking or cycling," said Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England's director of insight.

“The pandemic has changed the way we engage with activity and it will continue to do so as we begin the gradual journey towards a new normal as more sport and leisure facilities open up.”

Walking and cycling have proved to be the most popular forms of outdoor activity during the initial lockdown phase, with people walking for exercise increasing from 59 per cent in week one of the lockdown to 63 per cent in week six, and cycling increasing from 8 to 13 per cent over the same period.

That's compared to 61.9 per cent of adults walking and 16.3 per cent cycling at least twice a month pre-coronavirus.

This change means lockdown levels for walking have increased by 1.1 per cent against pre-lockdown levels and cycling by 3.3 per cent.

Meanwhile, an average of 45 per cent of people have been keeping active at home, whether that be with online exercise classes or other forms of activities.

And although new habits have formed, getting back into a gym was the most popular activity people said they would do once restrictions lift further, reports Sport England.

The research has also shown that while intentions and attitudes to exercise are positive, inequalities still exist in those who are getting active.

Those from lower socio-economic groups, older people, BAME groups and women are all less likely to be active, with these results also seen in activity levels prior to the current crisis.

The gender gap remains, with more men doing the recommended 150 minutes of activity a week, than women – 35 per cent compared to 30per cent. And more women are doing less activity than usual during lockdown – 40 per cent compared to 36 per cent.

While 23 per cent of people with long-term health conditions are doing the recommended amount compared to 35 per cent of those without.

And for people in C2DE groups, who are more likely to be on a lower income, be key workers, be accessing food banks or to have lost their job, only 27 per cent are doing more activity than usual - compared to 39 per cent of those in the ABC1 groups.

Savanta ComRes/ website surveyed 2,000 people for Sport England


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