Whilst looking over the latest set of physical activity statistics for Cornwall I was struck by the realisation that a great proportion of us are not born inactive, in fact quite the opposite.
It would appear that most young people are in fact active as they leave education and around 80% of the population meet the national guidelines for adults at this point.
This drops to around 50% as we reach our 70s. Ironically it would seem that ‘living’ causes a large proportion of us to die before we should and that as we navigate through the course of life this somehow causes us to be less healthy/active.
I was also struck by an idea coming out of the national Live Longer Better initiative that the process of ageing itself does not lead to poor health and wellbeing (at least not until pretty late on) but other social/cultural/systemic factors are at play.
This led me to wonder whether we are looking in the right place to solve the problem of inactivity. Instead of focusing on getting the inactive to be more active (whilst just as many if not more head in the opposite direction) perhaps a better strategy might be to create the conditions to help people sustain the habits they establish in childhood and to resist slipping into inactivity in the first place?
Perhaps addressing the root causes of less active lifestyles is a better option than dealing with symptoms further downstream? Both are issues of behaviour change one stopping the other starting.
When I reflect on my own journey towards inactivity since those carefree, cycle everywhere, unstructured playing days as a child I am drawn towards moments in time or life changes that chip away at that starting point. Things like starting work, finding a life partner, raising a family etc. where I suppose you become less self-centred, responsibilities increase, available free time reduces and convenience becomes key.
As I draw this piece to a close I also wonder at what point did being active transition from something easy, natural and fun that I never really thought about to something that feels more like an investment in my health, a necessary chore and a very conscious decision…perhaps the answer to life-long activity is in here somewhere, I’m off to the gym to escape the kids and justify the muffin I had with my coffee this afternoon.