Plans to get Northumberland more active as county trails behind national average

A new strategy aims to tackle the rising number of physically inactive people in Northumberland, which is slumping behind the more positive national trend.

By Ben O'Connell
Saturday, 15th June 2019, 4:13 pm
Picture c/o Pixabay
Picture c/o Pixabay

A recent Sport England survey showed that the county’s inactivity level was 27.8 per cent, which means just over 72,000 adults aged 16-plus are not achieving 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week.

This compares with the national inactivity rate of 25.2 per cent, which has been decreasing, whereas the trend in Northumberland is upwards.

Councillor Cath Homer

Also of concern to council chiefs is that within the 27.8 per cent, there are some ‘real stubborn inequalities’, with groups such as women and girls, people with disabilities and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds much less likely to be active.

To tackle this, a 10-year Northumberland Physical Activity Strategy has been drawn up, the draft of which was presented to a meeting of the county council’s health and wellbeing board on June 13.

Embedding physical activity into daily routines and creating activity as the social norm, particularly among certain groups, will be a central component of Northumberland’s new plan.

Coun Cath Homer, the cabinet member for leisure, said: “The message we need to get out is that you don’t have to start going to sports clubs, walking is a good one to start and then it’s about building and building.”

Experts say the issue is crucial because physical inactivity is responsible for one in six UK deaths – equal to smoking – and is estimated to cost the UK £7.4billion annually, including £0.9billion to the NHS alone.

The report to councillors added that ‘many people don’t realise that physical activity has significant benefits for health, both physical and mental, and can help to prevent and manage over 20 chronic conditions and diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, type two diabetes and depression’.

Lee Sprudd, director of Northumberland Sport, which is leading on the strategy, said Sport England has now conceded its previous efforts have not been working, with participation rates static across the country over the last 20 or 30 years.

The final version of the strategy and the action plan to help deliver the goals are expected to be completed by September.