Claire Craig: Living longer is easy . . sit less and move more

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Physical inactivity is one of Scotland’s biggest killers contributing to around one in six deaths in the UK currently.

With the Olympics on, we are being inundated with news and images of the achievements of our athletes.

As George Sheehan quotes: “Everyone is an athlete. The only difference is some of us are in training and some are not.”

But it is important to remember that physical activity is more than just sport. Walking, gardening and even housework, as well as the obvious gym, swim and fitness classes, all count towards your physical activity. As long as you are increasing your heart rate, it counts.

A recent study looking at the analysis of data from more than a million people, part of a study of physical activity published in the Lancet, found that an hour’s brisk exercise each day offsets the risks of early death linked to a desk-bound working life.

Not only can physical activity reduce the risk of major illness by up to 50 per cent, it can also lower the risk of early death by up to 30 per cent. It can also help you sleep better, feel happier and it can also be fun. Yet 59 per cent of adults in the Lothians still aren’t taking part in enough physical activity.

In the year of the underdogs – Leicester City, Wales and Hibs – this could be the time for us all to try to build a little bit more activity into our lives. Just sitting less and moving more can make a considerable difference to our lives.

At Edinburgh Leisure we see the difference that physical activity makes to people’s lives every day with the power to transform individuals and communities, whether it be through improving and/or maintaining both physical and mental health and wellbeing; building self-confidence and reducing social isolation; increasing employability skills or just making friends – all of which have a hugely positive impact on our quality of life.

This can be seen in some of the targeted physical activity interventions we deliver through our Active Communities team. In the last year over 2000 people have participated in our health referral programmes, which support people with a range of existing health concerns (mental health, weight management, long-term conditions, health inequalities) to become and remain more active.

But we know that it’s not just people with existing health concerns who could benefit from our support and that is why we have created a new post within our Active Communities team, a Get Active manager, supporting the most inactive members of our community.

For a person who is inactive, getting started can be daunting. They need help, encouragement and support to take the first steps. The new post therefore will be tasked with introducing a range of physical activity programmes specifically designed to support these people to get active and stay active; improving their health and 
wellbeing.

Now that the Olympics are in full swing, it’s a great time to get inspired and start your journey to becoming more physically active even if it just means sitting less and moving more.

Indeed Professor Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer in the Department of Health, has said that “if physical activity was a drug, it would be regarded as a miracle cure”.

For help in getting started, some ideas and activities, check #getinspired, and www.edinburghleisure.co.uk

Claire Craig is health and physical activity manager in the Active Communities Team at Edinburgh Leisure