As the Olympics close, attention is turning to converting the enthusiasm with which so many sat and watched the running, swimming, rowing and cycling into actually doing some sport. And oh, do we need some help.
Only just over one in three men do the recommended amount of physical activity a week, and fewer one in four women manage it, according to the Welsh Health Survey. And this isn’t going down the gym or jogging round the park, this is 30 minutes of fast walking or heavy gardening for five days a week. A confirmed sports-phobic like me can meet the guidelines simply by a brisk walk to the bus stop because I’m late or digging the veg patch. And this can be broken down into 10 minute chunks to make it easier still!
And yet even with this definition of ‘exercise’, a third of adults don’t manage 30 minutes of moderate activity one day a week let alone the required five. Perhaps surprisingly, it seems that all ages, genders and classes prefer slumping on the sofa to exertion, although older people are more likely to do so than younger people as are professional and managerial groups compared with other occupational groups.
With this massive level of inactivity the challenge is not so much getting people into a sports club or leisure centre, but getting them to walk the dog or get the newspaper from the local shop. It’s not an investment in sports that’s needed but simple action get two-thirds of the Welsh population up and moving.
And it’s the little things that will make the difference – safer cycling, better lighting and pedestrian crossings, decent cycle racks, provision of allotments. They won’t attract many plaudits but it’s what matters to ordinary sloths like me.
Of course it would be great to think that the Olympics has inspired the population to dig out their trainers or dust off their bike, but the reality is the great majority of the population are quite content to carry on watching others sweat it out on the TV. Rather than the Olympic legacy being some mega-stadium or programme for sports clubs, let’s have some Olympic walks and cycle-paths. That would be a real benefit for all.
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