“It’s important to have smaller groups working together, supporting each other.”
I catch up with Mike Gogarty, director of Public Health for Essex, just a few days after he and his son have completed their first ever Foxes Farm Mud Run.
Speaking from his home, Mike tells me he’s never done a Mud Run in his life and that it was actually his son who persuaded him to take part.
“I know I need to do more exercise,” says Mike, “my son and I are inspiring each other to be more active and sporty – that’s my motivation.”
Having survived his muddy experience I ask Mike about the #3030Essex Challenge; about barriers to exercise in the county and what else we can do to make activity accessible to all.
KL: Are you a runner?
MG: No, I’m not but I need to keep fit and that’s one of the options.
KL: What do you do to keep fit?
MG: Not enough. I do things like walking the dog, walking and doing the garden but I know I could do more. I want my son to run with me and to help him be more sporty. The mud run was his idea and we did it together.
KL: What do you see as the potential benefits to Essex of the #3030Essex Challenge.
MG: There are huge benefits of physical activity. The difficulty is knowing how to get stuff done and encouraging people to do it. Some of the most important benefits of being more physically active are that it creates a 35% reduction in heart disease and stroke; a 50% lower risk of developing diabetes; up to 80% lower risk of getting osteoarthritis; and nearly 70% lower risk of getting hip fractures.
KL: What do you think are the major barriers to activity in Essex?
MG: We don’t know. That’s why we’re working with Sport England through the LDP pilot to find out more (Local Development Pilot). I think it’s partly environment and part culture but we’ll look to the results of the pilot to find out what the barriers are and what we can do about it.
KL: Are the team you work with active?
MG: My team all put me to shame. They’re all fit and do lots of stuff.
KL: And what about you? You’ve said you know you need to do more, so what’s your barrier to getting more active?
MG: I think it’s the usual stuff. Time. But my son is a real motivator for me. We are inspiring each other to get more active. I think my motivation has changed. It’s about just getting out and doing it in the middle of everything else.
KL: The #3030Essex challenge has been about helping people to get moving rather than selling the benefits of exercise. From your perspective, how can we help it to grow in Essex and impact more people?
MG: I don’t know how to get the message out more. I think we need to think about opportunities within the community and developing different infrastructure around active transport. It’s things like making cycling an attractive option for commuters and improving the infrastructure to make that happen.
KL: How can communities work together to increase activity levels?
MG: It’s important to have smaller groups working together, supporting each other. It’s about finding role models who are in your community, networks and peer group – friends who are that one step ahead who can inspire us
KL: We know that habits begin in schools and the #3030Essex challenge has been piloted in some schools across Essex. How can we encourage activity in our schools?
MG: I think the daily mile at school is really important. We need to work to ensure it’s in the consciousness of governors and teachers, to make them more aware of it.
KL: We’ve spoken about schools and children. In your opinion where else do we need to focus our efforts in order to have the biggest impact on Essex?
MG: Older people benefit hugely from exercise and generally speaking have more time once they’ve retired. So I’d say we could focus efforts there on things like gardening, social dancing, swimming, walking and cycling. It’s about getting walking groups together and creating opportunities for communities to get together and do this stuff.