It is well recognised that an active lifestyle helps to prevent early death and illness. Whilst back in 2011 over £800 million pounds was spent on admission tickets to attend live sporting events and 1 in 3 people reported attending a live sporting event in the preceding year and 51% of the population watching either live sport on TV. The challenge to encourage the population to actively participate in exercise themselves is more difficult. The NHS have claimed that only approximately 30% of the population will exercise on a regular basis sufficiently to achieve exercise targets as set by the Department of Health (DOH).
Research was undertaken by Dr Glen Rae, of Sports Medicine North East, Dr Rishi Dhand GP Registrar and Andy Richardson, Medical Student at Newcastle University to investigate whether the spectators of more aerobic sports correlates with the amount of exercise undertaken by its spectators.
Local professional sports clubs interested in the health of their own spectators, the researchers worked with Sunderland AFC, Durham CCC , Newcastle Racecourse and Newcastle Falcons Rugby Union Club to discover what level of knowledge supporters had of the DOH exercise guidelines and how common were the targets achieved by spectators.
The DOH guidelines state that an average adult should aim to undertake 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week or 150 minutes of moderate exercise or a combination of the two. Adults should also partake in strengthening exercise on 2 separate occasions per week.
75% of supporters of all sports said that they were aware that exercise guidelines existed but only 6.2% actually could recall the correct amount of physical activity advised and 25.6% correctly stated the amount of strengthening exercise recommended. Only 21% of all supporters reported that they felt they did not reach the recommended physical activity levels as per DOH guidelines. This meant that 79% of supporters felt that they did meet the physical activity guidelines which is quite different to the figure for the overall UK population of only 30% achieving the recommended levels. Either the supporters of North East sport are extremely active compared to the general population or their subjective reporting may be questionable!
When supporters were asked to rate their own activity level as “not active”, “moderately active” or “very active”, football and rugby fans were much more likely to report themselves as very active compared to horseracing and cricket fans.
Overall the less aerobic the sports supported the less physically active the supporters feel they are but are also aware of these inactivity levels. Further work may be interesting to attempt to offer education all supporters but those of less aerobic sports and objectively measuring activity undertaken.