Sunday, 14 October 2012

Prescription for the UK: exercise your right to wellbeing

A couple of years ago, if someone asked me if I played sport I would have looked at them as if they had said a dirty word. Sport was just not something I ‘did’, and I was probably the biggest cynic out of my friends and family when it was announced that London would host the 2012 Olympics. Now, with that great legacy fading to a sparkly memory in our minds, I realise I have changed in a way I didn't ever expect. No, I am not about to run a marathon or even a half-marathon, but see sport as something that can enrich a varied and healthy lifestyle. Because sports may not seem like the most pressing issue in modern Britain, but boosting the perception of it in the minds of the population could be just the answer to the problems in healthcare and crime on the street. It’s obvious that sport reduces crime, reduces obesity, and sure as hell improves ordinary people’s sense of wellbeing.

It was hard not to get swept up in the excitement and feelings of unity when the Games were in town. The government probably have a goody bag of statistics now saying how public participation and interest in sports has increased/doubled/improved by x amount as a result and they've gotten practise at talking a good talk. But if they don’t act accordingly and revive sport in schools and communities, I fear we are going to get nowhere in the long term. We are a lucky nation to have been so well-represented in a variety of sports at the Olympics. You just had to look at certain events and notice how entirely under-represented African countries were in the swimming and diving to realise the importance of accessible sporting facilities – let’s face it, Africa is not known as a place with water going spare.

I'm fed up of seeing signs in parks and playing fields declaring “NO BALL GAMES”, “NO CYCLING”. Boris can get on his bike all he likes but it doesn't change the fact that roads are more often than not a dangerous place to cycle and are certainly not a fun place to do it anyway. Also, not all of us are lucky enough to have a garden where we can invite our friends for a good kick-around. This country needs to stop strangling spontaneous recreational physical activity (I don’t mean sex by the way) just in case a ball sent rocketing skywards might fall back to earth and hit a granny. Some 40 years ago in rural Croatia where my mum grew up, air rifle shooting was a regular part of the school sports programme - would young people in Britain today be able to believe it?

You don’t have to pay out for the gym or join a team (although I’d really encourage it, with the number of sports societies on offer at uni), but let’s not restrict sport and exercise to something ordinary people only do on machines in a purpose built complex, like dancing only when slightly (or very) inebriated in a darkened room with pulsing music. It’s really encouraging to see the number of families who turn out on bicycles for local events like the Olympic torch passing through Guildford and the finale of the Tour of Britain. I realise these people are the already-converted since the events I just mentioned are heavily sports-related, but working a short cycle into your daily routine or going for a jog to clear your head could really be the answer. Try it, and I promise you’ll feel better!

Picture sources: Google images

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Read the rest of The Stag Issue 52

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