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By Timothy Mathias, Head of Inclusion, ukactive

Despite restrictions imposed by government since 20 March, the physical activity sector has shown incredible resilience and unrelenting determination to fulfil its ambition to get ‘more people, more active, more often’. It has been amazing to see our sector adapt, transform and find creative opportunities to generate positive change and keep physical activity accessible through online offers.

Workouts can now be streamed from the comfort of our homes, offering more convenience and flexibility to people than ever before. Almost coincidentally, being physically active has never been more accessible. More than half of adults in England recognise the importance of being active during the coronavirus crisis. The Government clearly acknowledged the critical role of physical activity in maintaining our physical and mental health and wellbeing during lockdown.

But it is important to keep in mind that many adults are actually doing less physical activity than they normally would. Inequalities in participation levels have significantly widened during lockdown. Disabled people, older adults, BAME populations and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are particularly affected. The reasons behind this inequality are complex, but the solutions need not be – and a number of targeted resources have already been made available:

  • Activity Alliance has compiled a list of advice, workouts and guides for disabled people
  • ukactive and Sport England launched a series of free workouts for new mums and pregnant women as part of their ‘This Mum Moves’ campaign
  • Zamma Fit has posted advice and tips for people wishing to remain active while fasting during Ramadan.

These are just few examples of many great initiatives taken by the sector to make physical activity more inclusive and accessible during lockdown. And as our attention shifts towards reopening, we must nurture this inclusivity to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can continue to access our services and reap the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle.

Our gyms and leisure centres play a crucial role in supporting not just our physical and mental health, but our social wellbeing as well. Our facilities promote social connectedness, integration and cohesion. This is of vital benefit in a world where feelings of loneliness and disconnection have been exacerbated by lockdown restrictions. One in four adults living under lockdown report feeling lonely, and over one in three people with disabilities feel extremely concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on their mental health and wellbeing

As lockdown restrictions ease, many will rely on their local gyms, leisure centres and fitness studios to restore a sense of normalcy and belonging in their lives. And when that happens, our sector will need to maintain the same adaptability and flexibility it demonstrated during lockdown to ensure that people of all ages and abilities can access our facilities and the rewarding benefits we provide.

Look out for the latest stories and blogs in our Together series on the ukactive News page and Journal. For the latest sector guidance and daily analysis, visit the ukactive COVID-19 hub.

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