You tell ELL: We need more time to exercise

Mark has to wake up even earlier to fit a run in before work. Pic: Mark Russell

We asked, you told. In this part of the #WhatsStoppingYou series Sean Russell explores the number one thing that is preventing ELL readers from participating in sport; time.

We asked members of the four boroughs about their active lives to find out about what the biggest barriers to sports participation were across Hackney, Tower Hamlets, Lewisham and Croydon.

We found out that 59% of people who responded wanted to be doing more physical activity and 60% of those claimed lack of time was the main barrier against their participation, the vast majority of which were from the age range 16-34.

According to the ONS those aged 25 to 34 in this country had an average of 4.8 hours of leisure time a day, the lowest of all age categories with those over 55 likely to have 7.2 hours a day.

So the group that wants to participate more in sport hasn’t got enough time.

“I just don’t have the time,” said Eimear Donaghy, a 23-year-old primary school teacher from Tower Hamlets. “I am up at 6am and back home at 6pm. I go to gym at least once a week but couldn’t fit anything else in.”

Almost 60 per cent of people surveyed said they would like to do more physical activity

Many in this age bracket are “early-career” meaning that it is expected they put in more hours to get ahead. Feeling they need to take on all the work their bosses give them to impress and complete all training. Even if their contracts say “9-5” it rarely works that way in practice.

“In the UK at the moment there is a crisis of overwork. The Health and Safety Executive’s last figures said that one in four of all sick days was direct result of overwork,” said Aidan Harper of the four-day-week campaign.

The four-day-week campaign was set up to reduce working hours, which has been proven in other countries to increase wellbeing and economic productivity. With more time for leisure, more people would be able to participate in more physical activity.

“We’re a burnt-out nation and it’s not good for our mental health and physical health, and it’s not good for workplace productivity or the national economy,” said Harper.

61 per cent said that they didn’t have enough time

Daniele Reale, a 26-year-old graduate engineer from Tower Hamlets also wishes he could do more: “I really want to run more, you know? I may get out once at the weekend, but the rest of the week is impossible. I don’t get home until seven or eight and even when I’m home earlier I just don’t feel like it. You just want to eat dinner and watch something!”

But Mark Russell, 35, a business analyst who works in Hackney finds that he can now manage to run and cycle three or four times a week.

“When I started out it was way harder, you just feel like you have to work all the time, constantly working late after everyone else has gone home. Now I try to fit it in when I can. I Sometimes run in to work, or run on my lunch break. In the summer I try to cycle in the evenings as well. It’s still hard but it’s important for me to fit it in.”

People want to exercise more and they need more time to do it. Is the four-day working week an answer?

In those countries that have implemented a four-day week, wellbeing is higher but there’s no evidence that sport participation will go up. There are simply too many factors affecting this, as we have seen in this series.

However, Harper believes that it’s about removing barriers. You cannot control what people do with that extra time but if you give it to them, you give more people the chance.

“The single biggest barrier at the moment to people engaging in those things is having to go to work every day because you have to pay rent. And work is overwhelmingly sedentary, it’s not good for you, also your mental wellbeing, burnout is on the rise in the UK and it’s already at horrendous proportions. This is about removing barriers.”

And if we had another day for leisure each week?

“I’d try climbing, I always used to love climbing,” said Eimear.

“Football,” said Daniele.

This is day two of four in Eastlondonlines’ #WhatsStoppingYou series. Read the rest of the series here.

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