Addressing stubborn inequalities in physical activity is at the heart of this work

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Helen-Louise Smith, Marketing Communications Manager
15 Feb 2021

We are all influenced by lots of different factors that surround us in our daily lives. All these influencing factors need to work coherently as a ‘system’ around them. If we’re going to help foster positive change in these places, there needs to be a change of focus.

The local pilot (LP) team in Wigan, alongside colleagues in Public Health developed and replicated a model aimed at addressing physical activity inequalities. The approach supports those facing acute physical activity barriers in their everyday life, creating a new opportunity and ability to be physically active. The model offers the user a pedal exerciser which can be operated by both hands or feet and are used in conjunction with viewing a virtual ‘ride’ on a screen.

Wigan pillar 1
Wigan 2

After attending a Greater Manchester Public Health conference the team came away enthused by the idea and its transferability into the boroughs care-homes. Whilst the offer being presented was costly the LP and colleague went away and sourced similar less expensive products elsewhere online. Existing partnerships with the boroughs Walking and cycling infrastructure provided access to an army of willing volunteers to generate the videos to accompany the exercise machines. The cyclists recorded their rides in order to allow those care home residents a view into their local areas and further afield. The ‘Care to Move’ programme was born and through social media traction and promotion across the system, operates across over 50 care-homes.

Virtual bike rides | Inspiring healthy lifestyles in Wigan - YouTube

‘We have 52 care homes involved in our Care To Move Programme and the virtual cycling offer has really seen them engage with the programme on a new level. We regularly set challenges to keep homes inspired and it has been great to see residents get involved in this Tour De France challenge and make the most of the pedals and virtual rides. (Rob Street. Care to Move)[1]

Whilst the programme was born pre-CV19, its ability to keep this group of otherwise isolated and shielded community, physically active during the pandemic has been valuable. The benefits of this group being physically active do not need rehearsing however the secondary outcome around memory, loneliness and isolation is also notable. Many residents spoke about the routes they viewed fondly, reminiscing about being there themselves. The activity would also act as a catalyst for conversations between the residents.

The CV19 pandemic presented an opportunity to take the learning from the care homes and replicate or scale-up this offer with other target audiences facing increasingly stubborn barriers to being physically active in their everyday life. Across Wigan the seven community hubs (SDFs[2]) act as hyper-local multi-agency teams. Together the teams generate rich insight into the lived experiences of their communities due to their different embedded vantage points. As such they are able to quickly assess the needs of their communities.

LP worked with Wigan Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles (Wigan Leisure Trust) to prepare a response to Sport England’s CV19 innovation fund launched in summer 2020. The proposal sought to provide opportunities to further target audiences identified through the community hubs as being in need of increased physical activity. The primary focus was the older population, those over 60s who were identified through welfare calls during lockdown as, ‘having less confidence in their ability to carry out everyday tasks, which has resulted in them becoming socially isolated.’[3] Further supported cohorts include lower socio-economic groups; people identified as having health and wellbeing concerns; young people in care and those with a disability unable to return to a community setting.

The LP facilitated the ‘horizon scanning’ exercises and enabled the offer to be tied into the relevant services. The successful bid resulted in a fund of £32k being awarded in November 2021. This has enabled the purchase of a further 200 pedal exercise machines and additional iPads which are currently being distributed across the target communities in Wigan during this existing national lock-down.

[1] Wigan Care Homes Pedal To Paris (inspiringhealthylifestyles.org)

[2] Service Delivery Footprints. Area profiles (wigan.gov.uk)

[3] Innovative Solutions SE Application.