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New guidance to help people with long-term health conditions get active

The 'Easier to be Active' resource is centred around a ‘5Is’ framework and highlight the four key ways the sport and physical activity sector can change to better support people with health conditions

New guidance published today aims to support people with long-term health conditions to be more physically active.

Co-produced by us, in collaboration with Sheffield Hallam University and the National Centre for Sport & Exercise Medicine (NCSEM), ‘Easier to be Active’ is aimed at those working in sectors promoting, providing, delivering or connecting physical activity to people with long-term health conditions.

One-in-three adults currently live with a long-term health condition and more people are now developing multiple (two or more) physical or mental health conditions.  

This sector of the population is also twice as likely to be among the least physically active groups, which is why our interim executive director for policy and integrity, Sarah Ruane, feels this new guidance is so vital.

“Helping everyone to live active lives is at the heart of Sport England’s mission,” she said.

“That’s why the Easier to be Active guidance is so important; it highlights the changes the sport, physical activity and health sectors can make together, to create a positive physical activity experience, especially for people living with long-term health conditions.

“This can play a role in improving health and reducing health inequalities, a shared ambition of both Sport England and the health sector.”

Long-term health conditions are chronic mental or physical health disorders that require ongoing management and treatment over a period of years or decades.

So with physical inactivity remaining one of the top ten causes of disease and disability in England and being responsible for one-in-six deaths in the UK – the same number as smoking – we helped produce this guidance.

Using NCSEM research from Sheffield Hallam’s £14 million Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, this guidance is based around the ‘5Is’ framework.

The NCSEM research shows supporting people with long-term health conditions into activity is critical in improving overall wellbeing and management of their condition.

Which is why the 5Is have been designed to identify what makes a positive physical activity experience for those with long-term health conditions.

The 5Is

  1. Individualised: putting the individual at the heart of everything
  2. Integrated: strive to have a seamless, integrated offer between health, sport and physical activity for people with long-term conditions to be more active
  3. Influencers: recognise there are a range of people influencing how active a person with a long-term condition may be
  4. Inclusive: ensuring opportunities for physical activity are inclusive for people with long-term conditions
  5. Informed: everyone is informed of the benefits and opportunities of being more active with a long-term condition.

The guidance also highlights four key ways sectors can change to better support people with long-term health conditions to become more active and improve their wellbeing.

Four key sector changes

  1. Support: co-creating the journey, recognise the importance of peer-to-peer support and make every appointment count
  2. Access to activities: evidence-based, individualised, inclusive activities that are appropriate for people of different ability and skill levels and remove bureaucratic barriers
  3. Strengthening the system: train and educate professionals, develop an inclusive workforce that is representative of the communities they serve
  4. Communication: inclusive, smart and fun communication that highlights the benefits of activity and moving more.

The development of the guidance included ideas for solutions from more than 600 people – many with personal experience of long-term health conditions.

And NCSEM Sheffield programme manager Dr Anna Lowe hopes this collaborative approach to supporting the design and redesign of systems, policy, services and practice will empower more people with health conditions to gain the benefits of moving more, in a way that suits them.

“#EasierToBeActive has engaged with many people from many parts of the physical activity system,” she said.

“We hope that the co-produced outputs will provide practical guidance for partners on how to make it easier to be active with a health condition, and also stimulate further research and activity in this area.”

The project was also delivered in partnership with the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, the Richmond Group of Charities, and Clever Together.

See the guidance in full

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