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Keep Moving Suffolk scheme unveiled to help county stay active during coronavirus crisis

There is a joke doing the rounds that Covid-19 was all a scheme devised by Netflix to increase their number of subscribers. But the same could also be said about running and indoor exercise now that gyms, pools and mass gatherings have closed or been cancelled.

Joking aside, exercise is more important than ever during this time of lockdown. And this has been recognised by Suffolk County Council, with the authority this week launching their programme Keep Moving Suffolk.

Dr Craig Sheridan
Dr Craig Sheridan

Dr Craig Sheridan, an Ipswich Hospital-based doctor who has backed the campaign, said: “The majority of people will be in good health for most of their time practising social distancing. However, individuals may find the boredom and disconnection from their community, friends and family psychologically challenging. During this difficult time, it is important to find ways to stay mentally and physically healthy.

“Exercise is an important way to improve mental wellbeing and is recognised to be helpful for managing depression as well as improving sleep, feelings of fatigue and quality of life.

“Improvements in our cardiorespiratory health can also occur within a few weeks of commencing regular moderate intensity exercise and regular physical activity reduces the risks and complications of many diseases, which may complicate Covid-19 infection.

“Strenuous exercise is not advisable for those with symptoms, but for those feeling healthy there are clear benefits to starting or continuing to exercise.”

Keep Moving Suffolk is built on the message that time sitting down should be minimised; that some exercise is good, and more is even better.

In addition to spreading this message, the county council is also working with health and fitness professionals to help residents stay healthy - both indoors and outside.

Working out from home

Professional dancer Millie Mayhew left the Asian tour of a production of The Snowman when Covid-19 broke out. She has now turned her attention to her second career as a fitness instructor and has been hired by Suffolk County Council to lead online classes for Keep Moving Suffolk.

Ipswich-born Millie, who has also starred in a production of Tarzan during its German tour, said: “It has been a dramatic change for me. I am self-employed and the gym in London where I lead classes has closed. So, like many people, I am looking for new ways to exercise.”

Dancer Millie Mayhew is leading fitness classes (Picture by Simon Lee)
Dancer Millie Mayhew is leading fitness classes (Picture by Simon Lee)

“I will be filming some workout videos across the board, from people who have not exercised before to people who regularly attend fitness classes at gyms.

“You don’t need lots of space or any gym equipment. If I do use anything, it will only be things you will have in your own home, like a chair. We will be making the workouts accessible for everyone, and there will be ten to fifteen minute daily workouts that would be suitable for older people. And at the other end, there will be strength training and interval training featuring press ups and squats. We want to give people a real range.”

Millie says filming workouts in front of a camera is a new experience for her, and that she wants to bring in some moves from her dance background into the routine. She added: “Exercise is important from the physical and the mental side of things. It releases endorphins so you feel so good afterwards, you never regret working out!”

Gyms in the area are also embracing the message of Keep Moving Suffolk by posting videos online. Abbeycroft Leisure, which operates Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre, has also started its own communication on social media with the #InspireMeAtHome campaign. Users can find links to home workouts by typing in this hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

Keeping on running

Paul Evans ran the 10,000m for Great Britain in the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games, the same year he won the Chicago Marathon. He has now signed up to be an ambassador for Keep Moving Suffolk.

“It is unbelievable how many people I have seen out running,” he said. “I live in Beccles and usually I just see the same runners out every day, but I have been seeing all of these new people. I saw a couple of children aged seven or eight years, which was nice. Let’s just hope they carry on once all of this is done!

“For a lot of people the lockdown has given them the kick up the backside to get out there and they have recognised that health is more important than anything.”

Paul Evans competes in the 10,000m at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta
Paul Evans competes in the 10,000m at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta

Paul took up running aged 25, which is relatively late for anyone who has been able to reach the biggest stages of athletics.

“Back then I did not have a lot of money,” he says, “running is free. You only need a pair of trainers. It is also a sport that nearly anyone can do. It is something I enjoyed.

“I have not been out for a run yet where I have felt worse at the end and regretted doing. You feel more energised from running and it is a great stress relief. It is really important to keep moving at the moment.”

Since retiring, Paul has developed his own structured one to one running coaching programme from a base in Norwich. As well as seeing some taking the sport up, several of his clients are now feeling the disappointment of seeing their spring races cancelled - with the London Marathon one of many to have been postponed. Becoming an ambassador with Keep Moving Suffolk has offered him the chance to help more people into the sport.

“You’ve got to listen to your body,” he said. “It is important to warm up anyway, but it is now more important than ever as you want to do anything to avoid injury - especially with the currently limited access to physios. For beginners, I would recommend not trying to run any faster than a pace where you could have a conversation. It might be that you run ten minutes from your house and then back at that pace. It is better to think about how long, rather than how far when you are starting out.

“You are your best coach and don’t push it.”

“At the moment I have one day where I run and one day where I walk the dog,” he added. “We are so lucky in Suffolk to have such beautiful countryside and to be able to go for a run free of traffic.”

West Suffolk Council has also supported exercising outside by encouraging responsible use of the parks it operates.

To find resources and see more information, visit: www.keepmovingsuffolk.com/