Chris Lowes, Head of Oxford United in the Community, discusses the barriers which prevent people from leading an active life – and what’s being done to remove them

Physical activity and exercise are the miracle cures proven to significantly reduce the risk of major illnesses, combat loneliness and boost our overall mental and physical wellbeing.

The Chief Medical Officer recommends adults partake in 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity every week to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

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Assuming the average person is awake for 16 hours each day, 150 minutes represents 0.2% of the total time we can be productive in a seven-day period.

With the above in mind, it would be easy to assume the overwhelming majority of people living in England comfortably meet the current guidelines concerning our physical activity levels. But you’d be wrong.

The very latest Sport England data states only 63.1% (29.1 million) of the population average 150 minutes or more exercise, and over one-quarter (25.8%) average fewer than half-an-hour each week.

Closer to home in Oxfordshire, 49% of our county’s children are not doing enough activity to protect their health and wellbeing and one in three Year Six pupils are now overweight or obese.

Data of this kind coupled with provision gaps in priority neighbourhoods locally prompted Active Oxfordshire to launch ‘Oxfordshire on the Move’ in February.

The countywide movement has established a support network of 110 organisations with a view to harnessing the power of physical activity to tackle Oxfordshire’s wider social issues.

Since its launch, our team at Oxford United in the Community has been proud to support the campaign in achieving its four key objectives through our work on the ground and by attending various events and workshops.

The four objectives are:

  1. To provide every child with the opportunity to participate in 60 minutes of activity every day in addition to learning how to swim and ride a bike safely.
  2. To help older people and those living with long-term health conditions to live well by moving more.
  3. To increase activity in priority neighbourhoods and help create healthy places to live.
  4. To help everyone recognise the critical importance of being active for their mental health and wellbeing.

As a charity committed to inspiring happier, healthier and better-connected communities by using the power of the Oxford United badge and football, we are all too familiar with the inconsistencies concerning opportunity in our county.

Oxford Mail: Chris Lowes, head of Oxford United in the Community

For example, Active Oxfordshire research found 80% of children in our county’s richest areas can swim at the time they leave primary school.

This figure falls to less 10% in our most deprived areas.

While there is no correlation to football in the above statistic, it remains shocking nonetheless and demonstrates clearly how more must be done to engage young people especially with physical activity provisions.

As part of our ‘Oxfordshire – A Community United’ strategy, we have adopted a place-based approach by bringing projects and additional resources to all 10 of the region’s priority neighbourhoods. This includes creating opportunities for people and their communities in east Oxford, Banbury and Abingdon.

Oxfordshire on the Move is a collaborative campaign whereby the knowledge of leaders across multiple sectors can help develop a social movement to get everyone moving. Should anyone reading this believe they can contribute to fulfilling this vision, we’d recommend you join us and help to get Oxfordshire moving!

Chris Lowes

Head of Oxford United in the Community

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About the author 

Andy is the Trade and Tourism reporter for the Oxford Mail and you can sign up to his newsletters for free here. 

He joined the team more than 20 years ago and he covers community news across Oxfordshire.

His Trade and Tourism newsletter is released every Saturday morning. 

You can also read his weekly Traffic and Transport newsletter.