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May 21 2014

Virgin Active and leading organisations launch Active Inspiration campaign to tackle ‘black hole’ of youth inactivity

Virgin Active launches Active Inspiration

  • Over a third (36%) of young people regularly go at least a week without undertaking moderate or strenuous physical activity, either in or out of school.
  • Problem most acute among teenage girls: Four-in-ten (39%) 16 year old girls never take any strenuous activity in school, and nearly a third (31%) never undertake any outside of school
  • Campaign will enable 500,000 young people to embrace activeness over the next five years

Virgin Active, the UK’s leading health club chain, in collaboration with leading sports charities and educational organisations, today launches a five-year Active Inspiration campaign to help tackle rising levels of youth inactivity.

New research shows that one in five (19%) young people go at least a week without undertaking vigorous physical activity, such as running or playing football, outside of school, and one in eight (13%) admit to rarely exercising in school either. Additionally, nearly one in ten young people (9%) never undertake any light physical activity outside of school, such as walking to a friend’s house.

This trend is heightened with girls, particularly those in the older year groups. One in six (17%) girls never do any vigorous activity such as hockey or tennis outside school, and 13% never do any in school hours. For 16 year olds, this rises to four-in-ten (39%) not doing any intense exercise in school and nearly a third (31%) outside of school hours.

By bringing together, and collaborating, with experts from the public, third and education sectors, Virgin Active will deliver a series of initiatives to give 500,000 young people access to activeness over the next five years, focusing on activity both in and out of schools.

The first year of Active Inspiration will seek to tackle two specific problems:

  • Stopping young people falling off an activity cliff as they get older – whilst 14% of 8 year olds regularly go a week without undertaking vigorous physical activity outside of school, this rises to over a third (35%) of all sixteen year olds. This is reflected in the attitudes of young people; 22% of eight year olds claim they don’t enjoy doing sport, a figure which more than doubles to 46% of 16 year olds.
  • Addressing the fact that girls, in particular, become increasingly inactive as they approach and enter their teens – Whilst only 4% of 11 years old girls do not ever take any strenuous exercise in school, this rises to four-in-ten (39%) 16 year olds. What’s more, whilst 12% of 11 year old girls do not take any vigorous exercise outside of school, this rises to nearly a third of (31%) of 16 year olds. And whilst 24% of boys claim that they don’t enjoy doing sport in their free time, this figure rises to 38% of girls.

In its first year, the campaign will focus on tackling these issues through collaborating with organisations whose knowledge and skills complement Virgin Active’s expertise in activeness:

  • In partnership with the Women Sports and Fitness Foundation, Virgin Active is aiming to help young girls change their attitudes to activeness through a pilot experiment with the Year 7 girls of Handsworth Grange Community Sport College in Sheffield.  The project will work with the girls to devise and carry out a programme of physical activity – in school during PE lessons, in their community and in their local Virgin Active health club - to address and overcome the barriers to girls being active, ultimately providing insight which can be applied more widely.
  • In partnership with Youth Sport Trust, Virgin Active is linking up with ten Primary School networks across five UK cities to offer Active Crew, a 24-week programme designed to improve levels of fitness. The in-school programme, which is also available in Virgin Active clubs to junior members between 8-16 years, will provide 240 sessions to 300 pupils.
  • In partnership with Enabling Enterprise, Virgin Active will support the development of enterprise and employability skills through Active Minds: a Primary and Secondary school programme focused on taking activeness beyond PE and changing the way it is taught through the curriculum in five schools with 150 students.

Matt Merrick, Managing Director of Virgin Active in the UK, said:  "We are in the midst of an inactivity crisis which is most severe among young people and, in particular, young women. Active young people are more likely to be happy, perform well in school, be healthy and become active adults and parents. By working with young people directly, expert organisations and the communities throughout the country to which our clubs belong, we will enable 500,000 young people to experience a more active life both in and out of school. We hope that we can inspire them and play a role in stopping them being sucked into the expanding black hole of youth inactivity."

Helen Skelton, Active Inspiration Ambassador, said:  "Living an active lifestyle is something which should be the norm for every young person. It’s worrying this is not currently the case. Staying active shouldn’t feel like a chore so it’s important to find something that’s fun and sociable, so it can become a part of the everyday."

The Active Inspiration partners will work together with Virgin Active to reach young people in the communities around its clubs and to work directly with them to change behaviour.

Baroness Sue Campbell CBE, Youth Sport Trust, said "At present, young people’s levels of activity halve between the ages of nine and 15. What’s more, inactivity can impact younger years in the more immediate term: being active can improve concentration, increase levels of academic attainment and reduce absenteeism from school. We need to find as many ways as possible to inspire young people to get active and stay active. Our work for the Active Inspiration campaign is to take an exercise plan designed by experts into communities and schools and enable young people to see the benefits of regular activity."

Ruth Holdaway, CEO, Women Sport and Fitness Foundation, said: "We are delighted to be a part of the Active Inspiration campaign giving girls greater involvement in their physical education and sporting activities. It is our mission to transform sport for the benefit of every woman and girl in the UK. Our research and insight tells us that while girls do want to be active, they have very different needs to boys. Understanding what girls want from their physical and sporting experiences will help us enormously in designing a programme that will engage them and keep them interested for many years to come."

Tom Ravenscroft, Founder and Managing Director, Enabling Enterprise, said: "We are thrilled to have this opportunity to work with Virgin Active to help students develop the skills and attitudes they will need to succeed. Through our work as part of the Active Inspiration campaign we will enable young people to come up with innovative ideas in the classroom, to inspire their peers to lead a more active life. Supporting these skills in the context of developing active lifestyles for themselves and those around them has huge potential to transform their readiness for happy and successful lives."

Barbara Keeley MP and co-Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group on Women’s Sport and Fitness said: "Being active is crucial in the development of young people. It gives them the chance to interact with their peers whilst promoting a productive, healthy lifestyle. From schools to parks to gyms, we need to do more to promote the benefits of regular sport and physical activity. Active children become active adults – we need to help young people, and, in particular girls, overcome the current barriers to leading an active life so that they can enjoy a healthier future."

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