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Wellbeing 2: physical activity

4 May 2016


As part of our focus this week on wellbeing, today we’re looking at physical activity

Physical activity, such as walking or gardening, can improve your ‘general fitness’ while also helping your mental wellbeing. Much of the Wellbeing 2 funding supported communities to become more physically active by offering improved access or opportunities to physical activities.


What the funding delivered

  • A 41% increase in adults taking part in some ‘vigorous activity’.
  • A decrease from 36% to 21% of young people undertaking no moderate activity.
  • The number of people who had a high level of physical activity increased from 27% (at the beginning of the programme) to 36% (three to six months after it ended).


What can Wellbeing 2 tell us about physical activity?

  1. Often the most popular activities are led by those who are participating. Encourage participants to design, plan and deliver their own activities.
  2. Different ways of providing projects can reach different groups. For example, taster sessions for physical activities can work well, while residential trips for younger people can have a big impact on their wellbeing.
  3. We should be mindful that small amounts of money may need to be spent; by both projects and individuals to buy items that enable participation (such as gym equipment or clothing).
  4. Building elements into daily routines can help people to keep up the good work. Small changes but big impacts!
  5. Training local people as volunteers to deliver activities can help sustain activities in the longer term.
  6. We need to consider what additional support participants with physical or learning disabilities, or poor mental health, may need to help them participate. For some people, there are very specific barriers to taking part.
  7. How we talk about physical activity matters; how we market it, how be label it. If we get this wrong, we can put some people off.
  8. People can be put off if they feel they don’t belong in the wider group. For example, if they are unsure about whether an activity is for them, seeing a group of ‘superfit’ people also taking part doesn’t help.
  9. Good volunteer management is important. It’s hard to replicate or replace a good volunteer, but volunteers need support too.


The funding in action

Sustrans’ Active Travel Consortium delivered 19 projects in partnership with Living Streets, Ramblers, London Cycling Campaign and Cycling UK.

The Active Travel Consortium portfolio promoted walking and cycling for everyday journeys by helping deliver 19 projects across England. These 19 projects worked with nearly 114,000 people, getting them cycling or walking.

In West Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, ‘Travel Champions’ recruited and supported volunteers to lead walks, cycle rides or events promoting walking or cycling. The activities were designed to reach hard-to-reach groups; so there were school-based walks for mums starting immediately after school drop off time, and a carers’ walking group providing a sociable exercise for carers during respite.

The ‘Inclusive Cycling Champions’ project created a network of cycling centres, helping to improve current centres and support new ones. This reached 17,373 people (against a target of 4,400).

And Walk to Work encouraged employees to, well, walk to work! The Wellbeing 2 funding developed digital resources to help, and these can be found on the Living Streets website.

By the end of the project, the Consortium had recorded 4,170 people who had volunteered to run activities. As well as the increased physical activity, many of those who took part also reported a reduction in loneliness and depression (they were more confident and content because they had volunteered).

If you took part in any of these activities, we want to hear from you. Email to tell us how your physical health improved by taking part of one of our funded projects.


If you missed it…

The background to Wellbeing 2 can be found here.

Our blog on mental wellbeing can be found here.

Our blog on healthy eating can be found here.

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