Organisations across the sport, fitness, and health and wellbeing sectors have come together to launch an inclusive strategy to get Swindon people active.
Experts have found that one in three Swindon adults are not active enough, increasing their risk of diabetes and breast and colon cancers.
To tackle this, a new strategy has been launched to increase physical activity levels in the town, after statistics reveal Swindon has one of the highest rates of inactivity in the South West.
The Get Swindon Active Partnership is launching a new physical activity strategy in October to improve the health and wellbeing of local people by increasing the number of people who are regularly active.
The launch took place at Foundation Park, and the event included inspirational speeches, displays and information, and an opportunity for attendees to try out the 'Wheels for All' adapted bikes, and go on an organised cycle ride.
Director of Public Health for Swindon, Steve Maddern, opened the proceedings with a welcome speech and outlined the scheme for those attending.
His speech was followed by Steve Boocock from WASP (Wiltshire and Swindon Sport), Sam James from Swindon's Happy Lives project (who interviewed Swindon resident Charly Messen), and Martin Palmer (a past participant of the Football Fans in Training Programme).
Attendees of the launch were also lucky enough to view a video message recorded by Swindon-born Paralympian Ben Fox.
Ben, a fan of this new strategy from the Get Active Partnership said: "Swindon is where my career and journey began, and this launch is really important."
The wheelchair basketball champion was born in Swindon, and his family still reside in the town. He attended Westlea Primary School and said he remembers enjoying a Special Access disability sports day at Foundation Park many years ago.
He said this spurred him on to desire a career in sport and to take his hobbies further. He took part in the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, and won a bronze medal for Wheelchair Basketball. He has also helped to bring about the return of the disabled ball sport in Swindon.
The Get Swindon Active Partnership is a collaboration between the council and other public sector bodies, private organisations and community/voluntary groups.
All of the organisations have a shared interest or responsibility for physical activity, sport and health. The Partnership's aim is to improve public wellbeing through helping people increase their physical activity levels, and achieve a healthy weight.
The Partnership's three-year strategy sets out how the partnership will work together with local communities and organisations to ensure everyone in Swindon can experience the physical, mental, and social benefits of being active.
The Chief Medical Officer for England recommends adults aged between 19 and 64 should aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity (activities which leave an individual slightly out of breath), or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity, each week.
Alongside this, adults should aim to take part in activities, which develop or maintain muscle strength. This could include resistance training, or even everyday activities like gardening or carrying shopping bags.
Although 70 per cent of adults in Swindon participate in 150 minutes of physical activity per week, 25 per cent are said to not be active enough, increasing their risk of developing diseases and long-term health conditions associated with inactivity. These include heart disease and strokes, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and depression.
The Get Swindon Active Partnership has identified increasing physical activity levels among the least active groups as a priority within their new Strategy. Latest figures from the Sport England Active Lives Survey show that 38 per cent of adults in Swindon over the age of 65 are inactive.
This rises to over 50 per cent for adults aged 65 and over living with a long-term health condition or disability. The partnership will focus on supporting these residents to integrate movement into their daily lives and encourage them to be active by trying activities which are already on offer in their local area, such as walking and cycling.
Charly Messen, aged 29 from Swindon, who has a rare genetic condition which has been helped by being active and losing weight said: “Being more active has really helped my confidence as well as my mental and physical health. When I was 26, I was told I could die before my 30th birthday. Since then with support I have lost weight and now my condition is stable.”
In addition to improving the health and wellbeing of adults, the strategy also emphasises the importance of working with partners and building capacity with the help of local organisations. This includes working with schools to reduce high rates of obesity through encouraging physical activity among children and working with employers to promote healthy workplaces.
Steve Boocock, CEO of Wiltshire and Swindon Sport (WASP), one of the members of the Get Swindon Active Partnership, said: “Encouraging physical activity should be a priority for everyone in Swindon. We recognise though that being physically active is not entirely an individual choice, but a result of what spaces, places and opportunities are available to individuals and communities.
“There is no single solution that will see more people in Swindon being active but bringing together partners, working towards this common goal and focussing on some key themes will make a difference.”
Steve Boocock also explained that amongst young people, anxiety had risen during and following the lockdown period and that individuals surveyed said they felt less confident to go outside and exercise in public view. This is something the Partnership's scheme aims to tackle, by providing lots of opportunities for everyone to get active in different ways.
Cllr Brian Ford, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, said: “We have the second highest percentage of adults who are inactive in the South West, according to the latest figures, so it is incredibly important we get more people taking part in regular exercise to reduce their risk of developing potentially life-threatening conditions.
“We also have a high percentage of people over the age of 65 who do not take part in any activities and this is something we need to address if we are to encourage people to live healthy, independent lives so they don’t have to rely on care services.”
As well as the inspirational speeches, there were displays for Active Travel, Live Well Swindon, and Falls Prevention inside the venue for members of the public to browse and collect literature from.
Additionally, Representatives from SBC Travel Choices, Live Well Swindon, Integrated Falls Pathway Project, and GWH (Rachel Taylor, a Falls Specialist Nurse) were also present.
Residents can find opportunities to be active within their local area and at home, and access advice on building movement into daily life by visiting the local offer website: https://localoffer.swindon.gov.uk/content/staying-healthy/staying-healthy/move-more/