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Half the population 'feeling guilty' for not exercising as lockdown workouts fizzle out

By Tom Walker    30 Jun 2020
While inactivity is on the rise, there has been an increase in people running, walking and cycling / Shutterstock.com/Pablo Calvog
The challenges we had before lockdown in getting people active will once again be there
– Lisa O'Keefe

Physical activity levels in England have continued to fall from those recorded at the initial phase of lockdown – partly due to schools, shops and workplaces reopening, giving people less time to exercise.

Latest figures from Savanta ComRes for Sport England – based on data collected from 2,000 adults between 19 and 22 June – show that less than a third (30 per cent) of adults achieved the recommended level of 150 minutes of exercise a week.

Children (aged 16 and under) are even more inactive – only 14 per cent achieved an hour or more of exercise a week, with 12 per cent "doing nothing".

At-home fitness sessions are losing their appeal too, with only 38 per cent of adults now exercising at home – compared to the figure of 44 per cent in early April.

As activity levels are decreasing, more than half of the population (52 per cent) now "feel guilty" for not doing more.

Perhaps most worryingly, a third (32 per cent) of people surveyed admitted that it will be "a challenge" to maintain even their lockdown activity levels as restrictions ease.

Sport England has been measuring activity levels and attitudes towards activity throughout the pandemic via surveys from Savanta ComRes.

According to Lisa O’Keefe, Sport England's executive director of insight, the grassroots activity body is "aware there is an issue to tackle".

“It will be a challenge, as restrictions ease and we move closer to a new normal," O'Keefe said.

"The challenges we had before lockdown, in getting people active, will once again be there.”

According to the data, those most likely to be unable keep up their current activity levels in post-lockdown include people with children, those currently furloughed or on reduced hours, those aged 16-34 and those in the ABC1 social grade. Each group anticipates increased pressures on their leisure time, impacting on the time available for exercise.

Another issue highlighted in the data is the widening gaps in activity levels for specific demographics during the pandemic.

Only 23 per cent of people with a longstanding condition or illness met activity guidelines in the latest survey, while the figure was 26 per cent for people from lower socio-economic groups, 27 per cent for women and 30 per cent for those aged 60+.

"The social and economic impact that coronavirus is having has also meant that some parts of society are being affected more than others and it is disappointing to see that some people found it hard to build activity into their day during the lockdown," O'Keefe added.

On a positive note, there is evidence that new habits have been formed during the pandemic – especially around active travel.

As gyms and sports facilities have been shut, there has been a huge increase in the number of people walking, running and cycling.

The data shows that 62 per cent of people intend to keep walking and cycling for everyday journeys as restrictions ease.

“We have a real opportunity as we begin to emerge from lockdown into a new normal to build on the good habits people have created, including how they have been able to prioritise their health by being active during the pandemic,” O'Keefe added.

The latest figures show just how disruptive COVID-19 has been for the UK's physical activity sector.

Before the pandemic, Sport England's Active Lives Adult Survey showed activity levels were at a "record high", with 28.6 million adults doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

• To read the data in full,

click here for the latest survey results.

Sport England  fitness  Savanta ComRes  inactive  exercise 
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