There is compelling and indisputable evidence that physical activity, performed on a regular basis, is good for you; for us as a society; for our environment and even our economy. It is well documented that physical activity can enhance and sustain our health, helping to prevent chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes as well as enabling us to recover quicker if we do become ill.
It is perhaps less well publicised that physical activity can also improve the educational attainment of our children, help to reduce anti-social behaviour, build self-esteem across the life-span, contribute to urban regeneration and help increase work productivity, quality of life and employment. A physically active society will also result in a major decline in loneliness and social isolation, along with a reduction in depression and poor psychological health. There will be significant per capita reductions in CO2 emissions and reduced congestion via active travel and a lower number of working age people on out of work benefits.
These are the tenets of why Rob Copeland spearheaded the Move More project in the first place. Because despite being aware of all the above, the world we all live in doesn't make being physically active very easy; in fact, it’s easier to move less than it is to move more. For example over the last 3 decades we (as a society) have become increasingly reliant on technology for tasks of daily living and our work and leisure choices, environments and opportunities predominantly promote sitting down.
Sedentary forms of transport are a perceived necessity to enable us to lead our ‘busy’ and ‘time restricted’ lives and as a result the social and physical design of our schools, workplaces and communities has changed to accommodate these preferences.
In sum, we have pretty much engineered physical activity out of daily life. Instead of being part of how we live, we have largely confined physical activity to a recreational past-time chosen by few and in the process created a plethora of actual and/or perceived barriers to participation (e.g. lack of time, cost, low confidence, limited opportunity and lack of safety).
Consequently, opportunities to engage in physical activity across the lifespan are plagued with inequality and too often defined by socio-economic position, with the least active commonly the least well off. The dominant position that physical inactivity currently assumes within our city means that the majority of society, and particularly the least affluent, are experiencing negative physical and emotional health with huge medical, psycho-social and economic consequences.
Physical activity of the new and emerging generations is particularly low resulting in disorders, once the reserve of adulthood, now common amongst our children and young people (i.e. type II diabetes). Inactive children become inactive adults perpetuating the cycle. This is unacceptable. A change in culture is required.
Sheffield is one of three network-partners (with East Midlands and London), which combine to form the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM).
The NCSEM is a London 2012 Olympic legacy commitment that aims to improve the health of the population through research, education and clinical interventions in sport, exercise and physical activity. NCSEM-Sheffield comprises 12 Partners covering every element of civic life from the NHS, local authority, academia, leisure, private, voluntary and community sectors to elite sport. The aim of the NCSEM in Sheffield is to create a culture of physical activity, which sees Sheffield become the most active city in the UK.
This directly addresses the need for the population to move more. To deliver the vision, the NCSEM Sheffield established Move More as a whole city physical activity behaviour change programme that intends to change the physical and social environment of Sheffield, re-engineering physical activity back into daily life thereby making it easier for people to be physically active as part of their everyday lives.
A 5-year plan has been written which details action in 6 areas ranging from empowered communities through to active workplaces.
Move More is based on the principle of a whole system approach. This refers to the identification and integration of all the different leadership or professions, workforce and systems, assets and resources that are involved in creating an active society.
Moreover, the whole system is not simply a collection of organisations that need to work together, but rather a mix of different people, professions, services and buildings which have prompting activity as their unifying concern, and deliver a range of services in a variety of settings that help people to actually "Move More”.
Together we want to help create a culture of physical activity which sees Sheffield become the most active city in the UK. This is so everyone (individuals, families and communities) living in Sheffield irrespective of age, gender, ethnicity, geography or social gradient has the opportunity, the environment and the human capital to be sufficiently physically active as part of everyday life to be of benefit to their health and wealth.
This is really important to us locally as Sheffield experiences significant inequalities in health, with a healthy life expectancy gap of almost 20 years for men and 25 years for women between the most and the least deprived areas.