Six months ago, the state of the nation’s fitness industry was looking good. The 2019 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report revealed that 1 in every 7 people belonged to a gym, the total market value was £5.1 billion, and the number of fitness facilities in the UK was up from 7,038 to 7,239. The future looked rosy – at least for the fitness industry.

Statistics about personal fitness told a slightly different story - in the 12 months to November 2019, only 67% of adults were considered active according to government guidelines and 21% were classed as ‘inactive’ doing less than 30 minutes physical activity per week. Perhaps more alarmingly, in the academic year 2018/19, only 47% of children and young people were meeting the guidelines for 1 hour taking part in sport and physical activity each day, although that figure was up from only 43% in 2017/18.

Then came Covid-19, lockdown, and most recently, a new initiative to tackle rising obesity…. the picture is no longer quite so rosy! Physical activity levels have been affected - one site suggested that adults spent more time on the toilet each week, than exercising! Since lockdown, parents report that just over one third of children (36%) are doing less physical activity, although 30% are also doing more as reported by NHS data sources. We are facing an activity crisis as lack of physical activity leads to more than 20 long-term health conditions such as Type-2 diabetes, some cancers and osteoporosis.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! One encouraging thing to emerge from lockdown however, is that parents are valuing the time at home, and are doing more activities with their children; 53% of parents reported doing more physical activity with their children than they did prior to lockdown and 61% felt that playing sport and keeping fit was helping maintain their family’s physical and mental  wellbeing.

That’s where National Fitness Day can help, by highlighting issues concerned with the nation’s fitness and raising the profile of fitness campaigners and the fitness industry in an attempt to improve our general health. The NFD website describes the day as: “ the most active day of the year and the day to celebrate the role that physical activity plays across the UK. It is a day when people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities come together to celebrate the fun of fitness.”

This year, National Fitness Day will be celebrated on Wednesday 23rd September and fitness providers will be encouraged to offer free events to get everyone involved in their local communities. The theme for this year is ‘Fitness Unites Us’ and the aim is to celebrate the inclusive power of physical activity and the ability it has to bring whole communities together.

What can you do in your setting?

National Fitness Day can be lots of things to lots of people – you may want to run your own event, host a sports day or invite a P.E. specialist into your unit to give a workshop or demonstration. You are only constrained by your imagination…(and any Covid-19 restrictions in your area) but don’t let those stop you doing something for the benefit of your physical and mental health! As the saying goes….”where there’s a will, there’s a way!”

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  1. Hold a socially-distanced sports day and set up some individual activities which you can do against the clock; how about an egg and spoon race, or a long-jump or a squat challenge? You can get the staff to join in the fun too!
  2. Join an online fitness event such as a Joe Wicks workout, a yoga class or a virtual dance class.
  3. Go for a power walk or a run – start slowly and work your way up. You can do ‘scout’s pace’ too, where you alternate between running and walking.
  4. Set up a contact-free obstacle course in your setting. You can use tape on the floor rather than real obstacles and ask the children to jump over the lines, balance whilst walking on them, or zigzag between crosses on the floor. You can run team relay events against the clock if you’re feeling competitive or just do everything for fun!
  5. Make a fitness diary with the children to show them what they are actually doing over a week. You can create some visual stickers to use such as running, jumping, playing or participating in different sports.
  6. Create a fitness bingo or dice game. Choose 6 different activities and allocate them a number. When the dice lands on that number, the children have to do that activity.
  7. Encourage parents to do some physical activity with their children at home and send in a short video or photo to show what they’ve done. It could be anything – from a walk in the park to some major footballing action.
  8. Use the hashtag #Fitness2Me on your social media channels, saying what fitness means to you and how it’s helping you unite and come together with others!

What are the Government recommendations for activity?

In 2019, new guidelines recommended:

  • Adults (aged 19 and over) should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes (1 hour, 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity activity per week, or a combination of both, with strength building on at least 2 days.
  • Children and young people (aged 5 to 18) should aim to be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day across the week.
  • Pre-schoolers should spend at least 180 minutes (3 hours) a day doing a variety of physical activities spread throughout the day, including active and outdoor play. The more the better.
  • Toddlers should be physically active every day for at least 180 minutes (3 hours). The more the better. This should be spread throughout the day, including playing outdoors.

There’s something out there for everyone, so make sure you get out there and find it!
You should always check with your doctor before starting any physical activity if you are concerned about your health or have not exercised for a while.

Data sources and useful links

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