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'An active life needs to be at the heart of how we build back after COVID-19 – that includes how we get around, how we design our spaces, and how we support mental wellbeing'

Greater Manchester’s leaders have renewed their commitment to supporting active lives for all residents of the city-region, with being active seen as critical to improving mental and physical wellbeing across all 10 boroughs.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority has also renewed its ongoing strategic leadership of the city’s physical activity agenda, endorsing GM Moving in Action – a plan which outlines the shared Greater Manchester strategy for physical activity driven by GM Moving, the city-region’s ‘movement for movement’.

The strategy sets out what residents, local authorities and charities can all do to realise the ambition of active lives for everyone. 

Key to the strategy is embedding moving into everyday living and making it easier to be active, to help people move more as they live, work, travel and play in Greater Manchester.

The plan, which was developed following an extensive consultation with over 2,000 people and partners, includes a core strategy document, outlining the status quo and why moving more should matter to people. 

It also sets out what Greater Manchester will do next, including providing opportunities for young people to get outside and connect, and making our streets more pleasant and more accessible places for people to move about.

“Recent months and years have been a hugely challenging period for us all,” said Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham.

“During the pandemic, nearly two thirds of adults have been able to keep moving but the impact of the pandemic on activity levels has been significant, and inequality gaps have widened.

“The impact on physical and mental wellbeing across all age groups is of concern to us all. An active life needs to be at the heart of how we build back after COVID-19 – that includes how we get around, how we design our spaces, and how we support mental wellbeing.

“We have seen that we make the most progress when we work as one team on shared missions, using Greater Manchester’s unique strengths as a city-region.

“GM Moving is one of those missions. Now is the time to embed moving into everything we do.”

The damaging impacts of inactivity on our physical and mental wellbeing are widely understood.

An active life is important for all of us and is a top priority within Greater Manchester’s COVID-19 recovery plans.

The latest evidence from Sport England’s Active Lives survey highlights the scale of the challenge and the renewed importance of this work with almost a third of adults in the city-region missing out on the benefits of movement and physical activity during the height of the pandemic (May 2020-21).

These figures show a downturn on what had been a steady upwards trajectory in the numbers of people living active lives in the year prior to the pandemic (November 2018-19), when our city-region was experiencing falling rates of inactivity at twice the national rate and was closing key inequality gaps.

Meanwhile, data released earlier this month for children and young people covering the 2020-21 academic year indicates early signs of a return to pre-pandemic activity levels with a 2.1% increase in active children from the data 12 months ago.

“Recovery is on many levels – it’s individual, families and community. Movement has a part to play for each of these,” said Steven Pleasant, chair, GM Moving.

“The criticality is about looking beyond the physical health benefits that we’ve focused on for so long.

“We need to focus on mental health too –moving is the key to lifting your mood, and this is the immediacy of the impact.

“We feel these benefits in the long-term, not just in the moment.”

Hayley Lever, exec lead, GM Moving and CEO, GreaterSport said: “Greater Manchester leads the way in its commitment to this agenda across the whole system.

“We are building on strong foundations, have well-established ways of working, and now a deeper level of understanding of what it takes to create positive change.

“I am optimistic about where we can go together next, with such strong leadership in all 10 districts, supporting change in every neighbourhood.

“Living in a pandemic brings many challenges and we are ready for the next phase of this journey,”

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