by Catriona McAllister, CEO, Jersey Sport
With 2023 just around the corner, I wanted to take this opportunity to share the incredible network of sport and physical activity opportunities within the island and encourage more people to become more active, more often, into the new year and beyond.
During the recent global pandemic, most of us noticed the physical, emotional and mental health benefits of walking, running, swimming or cycling in fresh air every day. But as life has returned to ‘normal’, many of our good intentions have been replaced by a return to the same habits as before: working too much, not taking enough rest and leisure time, and allowing life’s stresses and challenges to take over.
Which leads me to the big question: will you make your health and wellbeing a priority in 2023?
It’s a sad fact that 48% of adults and 82% of children are not active enough to support good mental and physical health. Children in Jersey who rate themselves as ‘not well off’ are 30% less likely to play sport and 17% less likely to visit open spaces regularly. Islanders are significantly less likely to play sport or be active if they are over 65, have a low income, have disabilities or a life limiting illness, or come from minority ethnic groups. In school children, we see a huge drop of 35% in children playing sport in year 12 compared to year 8, and yet 67% of children in this age group would like to exercise more if only they had ‘someone to exercise with’.
Active Islanders enjoy better health outcomes, including a 42% reduction in Type 2 Diabetes, a 30% reduction in clinical depression, a 35% reduction in coronary heart disease and a 30% reduction in dementia. People who exercise regularly have better mental health, are less anxious, happier and more satisfied and feel their lives are more worthwhile.
At Jersey Sport, we understand that Jersey has a lot of work to do in terms of social, physical and financial inequality, which is why we have consistently expanded our free and low-cost programmes over the past few years to create new opportunities for Islanders – regardless of ethnic background, health or financial status.
Our Cycle Without Limits centre has gone from strength to strength and offers people with physical limitations and mobility issues the chance to experience the joy of cycling and to boost their health and wellbeing through regular activity. Charlotte Pope, a young islander who won the Variety Club’s Star of the Year Award for sport this year has multiple conditions including autism and ADHD, complex needs and hyper-mobility but doesn’t let that stop her staying active and keeping fit. She is a regular user of the Cycle Without Limits centre and says: “Try something new. Don’t let any disability hold you back. Go for it, you’ll have so much fun!”
Over the past three years, our Move More Jersey team have expanded our walking programme to include more routes and increased frequency of walks across all levels, and we’re also very proud to now have a cycling programme for beginners, an indoor and outdoor (summer only) swimming programme for nervous swimmers and a running programme for people who have never been able to run before. These courses open up a wealth of opportunities for those who struggle to exercise alone, are on a low income or come from a minority background. After running her first 5km Islander Tina says: “The RunTogether team could not be more appropriately named. We trained hard together, encouraged each other, and now celebrate our achievement together. The support, reassurance and camaraderie are what kept me going.”
While many islanders are happy to join a new fitness class, gym or physical activity, many people are anxious about taking up a new sport and joining a sports club. They are worried that they may not fit in or be welcomed into the team, scared that they won’t be good enough, or that life will get in the way and prevent them from attending enough training sessions or games. As 2022 draws to a close and we start thinking about our goals for the New Year, I’d like to invite you to consider getting back into a sport you loved when you were younger. Perhaps you played netball, hockey or cricket at school and would love to be part of a team again; or maybe you’ve always wanted to try gymnastics, sailing, shooting or tennis? What would you love to do if time, money or physical limitations weren’t an issue?
If the last two (almost three!) years have taught us anything, it’s that life is short and we must make the most of every opportunity. So, if there’s a sport or activity you’d love to try in 2023, I invite you to first set the intention, and second, take action! Make a phone call, sign up to a new club, enlist your best friend or work colleague to work out with you and start living the active life you’ve always wanted.
Who knows? Maybe you have hidden talents and skills you never knew existed! And if not, you’ll still boost your mental health, improve your physical fitness, reduce your risk of developing major illness and gain a whole new group of active friends who share your enthusiasm and motivation.
To find out more about our Move More Jersey classes and programmes, visit movemore.je, and to discover which sports are available in Jersey, please visit our Sports Directory at jerseysport.je/directory.
This article was originally published in the Jersey Evening Post on 10 December 2022.