This blog is a week – to be more accurate, a week and a day – later. I took a week’s leave last week. and we went away for a week of walking, cycling and exploring to a remote corner of Herefordshire. We might have chosen a week of better weather, but it was nonetheless good to get away from the succession of screen meetings which tends to shape the working week in these curious times. A week of walking and cycling almost traffic free lanes makes a huge difference.
June has been ‘Move More’ month in Sheffield. The month focuses attention on the benefits of physical exercise, and it has been a fantastic opportunity to support one another to be active and focus on the benefits of physical activity. The slogan ‘move more’ is just about perfect: it says exactly what it means and means exactly what it says, unlike most political slogans which are deliberately obfuscatory and meaningless. ‘Move more’ simply makes the point that we can all of us move more, more often, and for longer, whatever our initial levels of physical activity. This is a collaborative initiative, led by the National Centre for Sports and Exercise medicine, and headed up by Sheffield Hallam academic Dr Anna Lowe. Rob Copeland, who leads the Advanced Well-Being research strategy often opens his presentations by observing that for many of us, physical exercise has been designed out of our daily lives: there are just too many labour-saving devices and too much sedentary working. The impacts on levels of physical activity are itself a driver of poor long term physical health. The data on car journeys is especially damning: in 2017, the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport found that over 60% of journeys of between one and two miles were made by car. We can all move more.
Sheffield, of course, has a reputation as “The Outdoor City”. People have long been attracted by the city’s green spaces – those long fingers of green reaching deep into the heart of the city – and its proximity to the spectacular exercise opportunities afforded by the Peak District. As it happens, as we got back from a week in Herefordshire, we had a weekend visit from old university friends. We’d not been able to see them for the past fifteen months and this was their first visit to Sheffield to see us. Urban dwellers from the south, they were surprised by just how quickly we could get out into the Peak District for bracing walks. On our Sunday morning walk in the Porter Valley, they were particularly taken aback by just how many people we participating in the Round Sheffield Run.
This is part of the background to the new Move More strategy which sets out a clear vision and mission which unites the city’s residents with a shared purpose to create a healthier, happier and more connected Sheffield. The approach has been renewed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Health inequalities have been simultaneously a driver of differential experiences in the pandemic, but have also been reinforced and exacerbated by it. This in itself means that there’s no easy solution to the challenges of moving more.
Almost everyone knows that they should be more physically active, and that more activity is good for them physically, emotionally and psychologically. But if there is one compelling reason to move more, there are always a compelling range of smaller reasons to put off the walk, the cycle ride, the run or the gym: the action-intention gap is large. This means that a strategy is needed – and like all strategies it involves clear problem diagnosis, a compelling over-arching vision and a set of actions to achieve a common goal. So the Move More vision is a joint endeavour – a collaboration of anchor institutions, civic leaders, groups and individuals, and this in itself means that Hallam’s engagement with, a collaborative leadership of the Move More strategy is a good example of civic engagement in action.
The new Move More campaign has been marked with a new interactive game, Beat the Street, which launched on Wednesday 16 June and runs until 28 July. The game aims to get everyone moving and has already been a huge success with 50,000 players signed up and, so the website just informed me, over 200,000 miles already covered. You can register as an individual or together as a team to earn points, raise money for charity and win prizes as you walk, cycle, run, scoot or roll to clock up as many active travel miles as possible. Find out more details, including where to pick up your fob/card, how to register, maps and more by visiting the Beat The Street website.
All the activities taking place across Sheffield this month have certainly inspired me. As I return to a busy week of Zoom meetings, I am determined to make sure I move much more and keep active throughout the working day. We can all move more.