INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND SPORT ACROSS THE ADULT POPULATION, REDUCING INEQUALITIES AND CONTRIBUTING TO HEALTH, WEALTH AND WELLBEING.
Physical activity has been called the ‘miracle pill’, having significant health benefits for hearts, bodies and minds, including the prevention and management of a number of diseases . It has been estimated that five million deaths a year could be averted if the global population were more active . However, there are significant inequalities in who is and isn’t able to be active.
In Greater Manchester, some of the largest inequality gaps include socio-economic status, age, ethnicity, and whether or not you have a disability. Statistics show:
- People with a lower socio-economic status are nearly a quarter (24.2%) less likely to be active than those in higher social groups
- Those with a disability are a fifth (19.4%) less likely to be active than somebody who is able-bodied
- Adults over the age of 75 are 27% less likely to be active than those between the ages of 16-34 .
What have we done?
We have two main areas of work within the live well priority at GreaterSport: Active Workplaces and Moving Forces. Both of these were drastically impacted due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and we had to adapt to support our audiences in a different way.
Our Active Workplaces programme always had plans to include working from home support. The pandemic accelerated this, so we adapted our offer quickly to support colleagues and workplaces across Greater Manchester to remain active during these difficult times.
We changed the way we supported workplaces to reflect increasingly sedentary lifestyles. We started by adapting the Active Workplace toolkit. Our toolkit, produced in 2019, focussed on supporting employers and employees based in offices and primary places of work. We adapted this to have more focus on working from home and provide ideas and opportunities for people to move more in that environment.
We also realised our approach to targeting workplaces had to change. We couldn’t continue to work with individual workplaces; we needed to increase our reach. We built relationships with other organisations, The GM Good Employment Charter, Skills for Growth SME, and others who have a direct relationship with employers and are working together to share the value of activity through the working day to a wider audience.
For example, we worked with The GM Good Employment Charter to develop a plan to share the message about how physical activity can support a workplace health and wellbeing plan. We put together a number of assets and social posts that the charter could use to help amplify the messages of the importance of remaining active while working from home. We also developed a communications plan with the charter team, which saw them amplify our messages to their audience.
When the pandemic hit, it quickly became apparent that the pre-pandemic model for Moving Forces (large groups of people coming together for weekly activity sessions) would need a radical rethink if we were going to continue to support our members throughout the pandemic.
We continued to provide socially-focused, regular and relaxed activity sessions, most of which were online via Zoom, plus a few short bursts of face-to-face sessions when guidelines allowed. Thanks to this agile and veteran-led approach, we managed to maintain the levels of session attendances and participation hours that we had pre-pandemic. Feedback from members continued to be hugely positive and resulted in the programme being named as a finalist, for the second year running, for the Mental Health and Wellbeing Award at the Community Sport & Recreation Awards.
The Moving Forces programme is now in its final year of a three-year Sport England funded pilot. We are working closely with key strategic and delivery partners to ensure the learning we have gained over the last three years is captured in a way that will continue to benefit the armed forces community for many years to come.
Case study: Moving Forces Connect
We worked with Moving Forces members to co-design Moving Forces Connect: a six-week programme that helps military veterans and their family members learn more about the connection between mental wellbeing and physical activity. The initial pilot was delivered via Zoom in December 2020 and January 2021 and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive. This feedback will be used to develop the programme to all veterans.
Michael had been a member of the Moving Forces programme for a while, taking part in a range of physical activities such as rock climbing and kayaking. When Moving Forces Connect was advertised, he decided to take part. ‘I thought it may help me to speak to likeminded people,’ says Michael. ‘I was curious to see if others were experiencing the same issues as I was around coping mechanisms, if they had similar feelings, and whether I could learn useful techniques to help me handle a busy, civilian life. I signed up.’
The significant difference between life in the armed forces and civilian life is something Michael is keen to stress. ‘In the forces, everything has a purpose, and life is ordered, clean and disciplined,’ explains Michael. ‘Everyone has a role: we get things done, and we look after one another. When you leave, it’s not easy to cope without this aim. We need to learn to adapt to our new lives, but we’re left with little structure and support. That’s where I felt the course could help me.’
Michael found the full course advantageous, but says the work on mindfulness and gratitude really resonated. ‘Writing down the three things I’m grateful for each day is a practice I’ve really taken on board,’ he says. ‘At the end of a tough day, it helps to recalibrate and take the time to refocus, putting things into perspective. I take a minute to shut my eyes, focus on my breathing, and listen to the sounds around me. It calms my mind, and puts me in a good place.’