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How the pandemic affected physical activity among Peterborough adults

A recent survey from Sport England has revealed that there are 3,000 more adults in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough achieving enough physical activity across the week to benefit their health compared to last year.
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Gym-goers were pleased to be back when lockdown lifted - but did the lockdown impact physical activity trends? (Photo: Terry Harris)

Around six in 10 adults across the region are doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week.

The survey, covering from mid-May 2019 and mid-May 2020, shows that 3,000 more people are hitting the level of activity recommended for health benefits, although is statistically classed as no change.

A quarter of the adult population in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough remains inactive, which means they are doing less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week.

Survey results could have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic; activity levels in England were increasing until lockdown measures were brought in, which cancelled out many gains made during the first 10 months of the year. Although figures for people cycling for leisure, running outdoors and exercising at home increased, swimming, team and racket sports all recorded decreases. Access to these facilities was stopped during the lockdown.

More detailed results for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough adults are expected from the Active Lives Adult Survey, but have yet to be released. National results suggest that:

  • there continues to be a positive association between activity levels and mental wellbeing – some activity is good, more is better 
  • those who are active are more likely to keep trying if something is difficult, and more likely to achieve goals, than those who are less active – and lockdown didn’t affect this 
  • those who are active feel they can trust people in their area more than those who are inactive – and lockdown didn’t affect this
  • levels of happiness and anxiety didn’t change this year compared to last year – but people were less happy and more anxious as a result of the pandemic 
  • those who are active or fairly active are less likely to feel lonely than those who are inactive with the exception of those with a disability or long-term health condition who are equally likely to be lonely whether they are active or not 

Inequalities remain, however, with women, those from lower socioeconomic groups, older age groups, those with a disability or long-term health condition (LTHC), and ethnic minorities (in particular Asian (excl. Chinese) and Black backgrounds) classed as less active.

The pandemic has widened some of these inequalities, particularly the gap between lower and higher social groups, ethnic groups and those with a disability or LTHC. The 16-34 age group was also hit hard by the pandemic; they tend to rely on access to facilities and organised sport and it's harder to adapt.

Women seemed to find it easier to adapt than men, perceiving that opportunities for activity still existed more than men did.

Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive at Sport England, said the survey "highlights the challenges this year has brought to those groups who already find it harder than most to be active ... reminding us of the importance of educational settings, community leisure facilities and team sports that underpin access to activity for so many people across England".

Simon Fairhall, chief executive of Living Sport, added: "To help address this challenge in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, we are currently distributing a £100k Tackling Inequalities Fund from Sport England. This is already benefitting those that need it most, working with new partners and narrowing the gaps that the lockdown has inflated."