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Carers and physical activity - Sport England and Carers UK

In a project funded by Sport England with funds from the National Lottery, Carers UK is looking at ways to support carers in England over the age of 55 to take part in more physical activity as a way to reduce loneliness and improve their wellbeing.

SE NL Portrait RGB 500pxOur report ‘Carers and Physical Activity' found that unpaid carers over the age of 55 face significant challenges in being physically active, despite 87% wanting ‘to be fitter than I am’. Carers reported the main barriers are:

  • not having the time to take part in physical activity (88%)
  • not being motivated (71%)
  • not being able to afford the costs (67%)
  • and not having anyone to go with (59%).

The report also shows that this cohort of carers are less active than other adults over 55 (46% of carers over the age of 55 are inactive, compared with 33% of all adults in this age bracket) and that the barriers to being physically active are leaving carers in poorer health than the general population. Disabled carers, working carers, and carers who are struggling financially are particularly affected.

The research also found that where carers were able to be active they were also less lonely. Other benefits of being active included increased life satisfaction and decreased anxiety.

Insight with carers into barriers from a behaviour change perspective showed:

  • Capability is increased when carers have the knowledge about what activity they should be doing, confidence to put themselves first and understanding of what works for them.
  • Opportunity is affected by a lack of time including a lack of control over their time and the unpredictability of their lives but can be increased with tailored activities to overcome the barriers as well as social cues and a supportive community that encourage them to take part.
  • Motivation levels might be low to start with but can be positively influenced by the relief and mental break they find it gives them.

Carers UK research found the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on carers’ health has been far reaching indicating that support to help carers look after their health has never been more needed:

  • 70% of carers had reduced the amount of physical activity they were taking part in. This rises to 74% of BAME carers and 74% of carers who are struggling financially.
  • Only 29% of carers feel that they have been able to maintain their health and wellbeing during the pandemic1.

Carers want to be more active. Three quarters (76%) of carers we spoke to said they are not able to do as much physical exercise as they’d like. There are a number of ways in which action can be taken to support carers to be more physically active. This includes:

  • Making physical activity a core part of carers’ support, including information and advice on wellbeing, offered to carers.
  • Raising awareness of the importance of physical activity for carers.
  • Seeing caring as a social determinant of health – as Public Health England recently announced.
  • Carer’s assessments being able to explore physical activity which supports wellbeing.
  • Physical activity providers being more aware of carers’ needs.

Ideas and inspiration for how carers can be supported to be more physically active:

Our 'Carers and Physical Activity' report contains a number of different case studies of work that supports carers to be physically active. Awareness days and weeks like Carers Week (7-13 June 2021) are great opportunities to help carers become more physically active. You can find more ideas for inspiration here

Working together to help carers become more physically active

Finally, we are also delighted to announce that Carers UK and Sport England will continue working together for another three years. Together, we will develop a dedicated Carers Active programme to encourage carers to become active and work to ensure physical activity is considered part of mainstream carers’ support. This will be done through direct activity with carers, sharing good practice, raising awareness and learning from carer’s views.

Resources for carers

Carers UK is also running a number of physical activity sessions for carers. Click here to see the activities currently available.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact our Policy and Public Affairs team by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

1 Carers UK (2020) carersuk.org/images/News_and_campaigns/Caring_Behind_Closed_Doors_Oct20.pdf

1 This included 9.1 million people who were providing unpaid care before the pandemic and 4.5 million who began caring since. Carers Week (2020) carersuk.org/images/CarersWeek2020/CW_2020_Research_Report_WEB.pdf

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