Olympic legacy: Sport or physical activity?

By on 04/08/2015 in Blog

Sports participation is in the news today, with reports that the number of people playing sport is falling three years after the Olympics. But, as Head of Wellbeing Services Karen Creavin explains, you don’t have to be in training for the Rio Olympic Games to enjoy the many benefits of a physically active lifestyle.

She wrote:

The thing about being physically active is that there’s no one-size fits all. For some people it means walking the dog, running or swimming. Others join a team for netball, football or cricket, while many people enjoy a trip to the gym, a bike ride or a Zumba class.

Here in Birmingham we recognise the importance of sport – as the recent launch of the Run Birmingham strategy underlined. But we also know that not everyone wants to be sporty and that’s why we now have a growing schedule of FREE non-sporting activities in parks across the city.

Things like the weekly conservation session at Kings Norton Nature Reserve. The weekly three-hour session (Tuesday 10.30-1.30) offers an opportunity to pick up new skills and protect the local environment.

And, as Friends of Kings Norton Nature Reserve Volunteer Coordinator Amanda Cadman, explains, getting to grips with nature can be just as physically rewarding as a trip to the gym.

She said: “We always say that this Tuesday workout is just that: a workout and you never know what muscles you’re going to have to use.”

Nearby resident Brian Hewitt agrees. He added: “Whether it’s breaking up the grass or piling it up, dead hedging or other jobs, it’s all useful exercise and very worthwhile.”

Birmingham is a very green city, so it makes perfect sense to make full use of our wonderful parks and open spaces as we tackle the inactivity crisis.

If conservation isn’t your thing, what about swing dancing? The weekly SwingFit session at Cotteridge Park (Tues 6pm) is proving to be a huge hit. Based on dance styles from the 1920s and ’30s, including Charleston and Lindy Hop, SwingFit is suitable for people of all fitness levels and abilities, with an emphasis on having fun while getting active and staying fit.

I don’t imagine we’ll see SwingFit in the Olympics anytime soon, but so what? The people who attend the Cotteridge Park sessions have fun, keep fit and enjoy the social side of this non-sporting physical activity.

And the need for these activities is clear.

Being active can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50 per cent. It can lower your risk of early death by up to 30 per cent, while research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

You can see why some people have labelled exercise a ‘miracle cure’.

So, when we look at the 2012 Olympic legacy, of course we want to see sporting triumph but let’s not forget the far more important target of getting people active – whether they play sport or not.

That’s a real legacy.

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