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Mapping fitness in the UK

A new study has found that Bristol is the UK city where the public are most interested in being or becoming healthy.

Learning objectives

After reading this feature you should be able to:

  • Identify if your pharmacy is in an area where the local population is more (or less) interested in being healthy
  • Target those age groups that may need more support such as the over-50s
  • Help ensure people’s fitness goals are realistic and achievable.

Research conducted by fitness experts used 27 internet search terms relating to health and fitness to pinpoint the places where people are most interested in becoming healthy. 

The study combined average searches in 62 cities and large towns to reveal the monthly searches per 100,000 people in that area. For 61 of the 62 cities, the most searched-for term was ‘gyms near me’. 

The anomaly was East Kilbride, where people searched for the phrase ‘calorie calculator’ slightly more. Meanwhile, the term ‘swimming pool near me’ also featured heavily. It ranked as the second most searched-for term in 48 of the 62 cities – including every city ranked in the top 10 places where the public were most interested in being or becoming healthy.

The study found that Bristol had the most searches per 100,000 people (5,636) over the last 12 months for terms related to health and fitness, closely followed by Manchester, which had 5,625 searches per 100,000 people. Reading, with a far smaller population (173,170) than both Bristol and Manchester, was next on the list with 5,347 searches per 100,000 of the local population.  

With 5,264 searches for terms related to health and fitness, Norwich ranked fourth, closely followed by Cambridge, where the third most searched for term was found to be ‘pilates’. Salford, Newcastle upon Tyne, Preston, Birmingham and Liverpool completed the top 10 locations. London, the most populated city in the UK (8,982,256), ranked in 13th place.

At the opposite end of the scale, Newport in South Wales was bottom of the list with an average of just 255 searches per 100,000 people. Although it has the smallest population of the 10 cities least interested in being or becoming healthy, East Kilbride averaged a search volume of just 344 per 100,000 people for terms related to health and fitness over the past 12 months.  

Wakefield, Derry, Lancaster, Winchester, Doncaster, Carlisle, Chelmsford and Dundee made up the rest of the 10 UK cities least interested in being or becoming healthy.    

Activity levels down

A 2022 report into the health of older adults during Covid from the Physiological Society and Centre for Ageing Better found that over a quarter (26 per cent) of people aged 50+ years are doing less exercise than before the pandemic. The problem is particularly acute in the over-75s.

The top reasons given by over-50s for doing less physical activity are lack of motivation (44 per cent) or they are out of the habit of being physically active (42 per cent). Different age groups reported different preferred actions to help them increase their physical activity levels: 

  • 50-59 year-olds preferred using activity monitors
  • 60-74 year-olds preferred attending social activity groups
  • Those aged 75+ preferred tailored advice from healthcare professionals such as a pharmacist.

The report recommends a national post-pandemic resilience plan to provide the over-50s with tailored advice and guidance on how to improve their health post-pandemic. The aim would be to not only return them to their pre-pandemic physical activity levels but encourage greater long-term levels of activity overall.

Such a plan could include a programme of exercise and activity to increase physical resilience, focusing on older people with risk factors such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and sarcopenia, the study authors say.

“Over a quarter of people aged 50+ years are doing less exercise than before the pandemic”

Easy does it

For pharmacy customers wanting to improve their health and mental wellbeing after a prolonged period of inactivity, ‘little and often’ is the mantra when it comes to exercise. Encouraging people to do a little exercise three to five times a week can have a significant positive effect on their physical and mental wellbeing. However, it is important to make sure that any new exercise is done safely.

To help ensure people’s fitness goals are realistic and achievable, pharmacy teams should initially encourage them to make only small changes to their daily routine – for instance, to walk more rather than use the car. 

It is important that people gradually reintroduce exercise into their lives to avoid over-exertion or injury. Exercise not only needs to be built up steadily but should also be sustainable and based on things that are easily attainable – like cycling, swimming or walking.

For those who aren’t used to exercising or are pushing themselves harder than usual, starting something new could easily lead to sprains, strains or back injuries. Back pain in particular is a common problem for many people when they exercise. It is estimated that low back pain is responsible for 37 per cent of all chronic pain in men and 44 per cent in women.

Point customers to resources such as Mentholatum’s Mind Your Back campaign for additional guidance and support – for example, easy stretching and strengthening back exercises.

The importance of warming up properly prior to starting any exercise or physical activity should also be stressed. Together with stretching, this can prevent injuries by loosening the joints and increasing blood flow to the muscles, making them less likely to rip, tear or twist in a harmful way during the activity.

Using topical OTC treatments can also be invaluable, especially for those new to exercise or who really like to push themselves to their limit. Heat helps to soothe muscle aches and pains, cold therapy provides fast, cooling and soothing relief, and topical anti-inflammatories provide penetrating pain relief targeting the point of pain.

Get moving

Musculoskeletal conditions are on the rise. It is predicted that an additional 7 million people in the UK will suffer from arthritis by 2030, taking the total number of sufferers to 17 million. According to Arthritis Research UK, musculoskeletal conditions already account for the third largest area of NHS spending at £4.7bn and result in 30 million lost working days each year. 

To help address the problem, Lanes Health is supporting pharmacists in helping patients make lifestyle changes aimed at improving their joint health. The OTC company has partnered with chartered physiotherapist Katie Knapton, founder of PhysioFast Online, to develop a 12-week flexibility and mobility plan for those with early onset joint health issues, as well as sufferers of musculoskeletal conditions like arthritis. 

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