As I sat down to start writing this blog, with the aim of sharing Active Letchworth’s plans for this year, I took a quick glance out of the window. I saw the snow still falling, the wind still blowing, and I pulled a blanket around my shoulders. What better excuse is there than the current weather for those wanting to shun getting active in favour of their cosy sofa and cup of tea. So just hear me out as I try to change your mind.
Physical inactivity is one of the most significant global health crises of the moment. Combined with sedentary behavior, this is a substantial threat to cardiovascular health and increases the risk of early death. In the UK, physical inactivity causes one in ten premature deaths from coronary heart disease and one in six deaths overall. The good news is, there's something you can do and we're here to help. Evidence shows keeping physically active can reduce the risk of heart and circulatory disease by as much as 35% and risk of early death by as much as 30%.
Ok, so enough with the facts and figures, we all know exercise done well is good for us and most of us should probably do more. “But what’s going to happen to improve the situation in Letchworth?” I hear you ask!
This year, Active Letchworth is paying special attention to those around retirement age who are currently inactive. Not only are there physical health benefits of exercise, but the positive impact physical activity can have to someone’s psychological wellbeing can be hugely significant too. Although loneliness can affect any one of us at any age and being alone is not the same as feeling lonely, lifestyle changes such as children leaving home, the loss of a partner, and stopping work can all contribute towards loneliness and social isolation. Here come some more stats:
- Lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
- Nearly a quarter of pensioners do not go out socially at least once a month.
- 59% of adults aged over 52 who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often.
- People with a high degree of loneliness are twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as people with a low degree of loneliness.
Now having dampened the mood, here’s the good news. Findings have shown that people who take part in more health-maintaining and independence-maintaining behaviours are less likely to feel isolated and more likely to feel that their community is a good one to grow old in. Here’s where Active Letchworth comes in.
We are in the process of launching a new programme, ‘Spring in your Step’ which will start with focus groups being held throughout March. This will involve talking with local residents who are nearing retirement or already retired and either currently inactive or who have just recently become active. We want to find out what is/was stopping them and how they feel more enabled to take part in activity.
Once these barriers have been identified, Active Letchworth will work with several partners to set up social groups with an emphasis on creating welcoming, relaxing atmospheres as opposed to pushing exercise or sporting initiatives on them. Using behaviour change techniques, physical activity will be gradually introduced and we will look at alternative ways to be active such as walking football, gardening, creative dance etc. A large part of this work will involve signposting to the many community clubs and groups already in Letchworth. Most importantly, we will make sure that pathways are supported and maintained so that everyone can remain active.
We’re putting in a bid to external funders, working with volunteers, and tying into the services we already have in Letchworth to ensure that Spring In Your Step is in a great position to be a sustainable programme with great impact!
I can feel this cold weather is changing already – Spring (in your step) is here!
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