I hope during this past summer with the most glorious weather that I can ever remember, you were able to get out and about and really enjoy it. Aside from the weather, it was also a fantastic summer for world-class sport with the World Cup and Wimbledon to name just a couple. And now that it is autumn, it is always good to support our local clubs too and take in a game of football or rugby. Our local clubs do a fantastic job of putting out several teams as well as their extensive youth coaching and training programmes. And of course, there is always horseracing at Newmarket. But as much as I thoroughly enjoy watching sport, nothing can beat the experience of getting out and playing sport. What are the benefits of playing sport and getting exercise? The positives cannot be overstated – it is both good for our physical health as well as our mental health. It seems like such a simple thing to get out and get moving, but sometimes taking the first step can be the most difficult part. But once that hurdle is overcome, the rest is relatively easy and very enjoyable too.
We are all aware of the physical benefits of being fit and active, but the mental benefits are incredibly important, as well. Getting out and being active can reduce stress, foster better social connections, and encourage better mental health. I was recently at a primary school where, in addition to their PE lessons, all the children run a mile every day. The Daily Mile is not a race and it doesn’t matter how long it takes the pupils to complete it – the children go at their own pace. Their teachers report that the children have higher levels of concentration in the classroom and which then helps their learning. The additional exercise they are getting will also help to reduce obesity levels which are linked to both Type 2 diabetes and increased rates of cancer, and as a government, we are working to halve child obesity rates by 2030. This is such a simple thing for children to do – no special equipment is needed and yet there are so many positives that they take away from it. The children obviously love it, their enthusiasm was infectious.
In West Suffolk we are very lucky to have fantastic leisure centres and sporting clubs that cater to most interests. Our local leisure centres offer such a wide variety of sports and activities, there is something for everyone, no matter how young or old and no matter what kind of starting levels of fitness one has. Between football, squash, tennis, swimming, badminton, the gym, plus a host of other sports and activities - our leisure centres really do cater for all.
I was recently at the Haverhill Leisure Centre where Abbeycroft have just launched a challenge to the people of the town to walk, run, swim, cycle, go to the gym, do a class, dance, jump or play in order to lose a million calories by Christmas. Technology is at work here too, they have launched an app to keep track of the calories. The challenge is an excellent one, and I have no doubt that it will be easily achieved. But the best thing about it, is that with more people taking that first step to raise their activity levels, the effects from it will last long past Christmas. Abbeycroft also runs Keep Active programmes for those 55+, and I was able to take part in these during a recent visit to the Newmarket Leisure Centre. It is so important that sport and being active are a part of everyday life, especially for young people and also for those coming up to retirement age - we need to get those two groups to raise their activity levels.
I hope you will take up a personal challenge to become more active, even if it is only by a little bit. The benefits of being physically active are huge, but most of all, it is good fun and it will improve the quality of your life.