BRITAIN’S most influential sports figure has praised the Hartlepool Mail for getting people fit.
In a ringing endorsement for our Race For Fitness campaign, Lord Sebastian Coe has described it as “a perfect example” of the sort of initiative the London Olympics wanted to inspire.
He spoke out just days after winning a Lifetime Achievement Award at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year night, and after spending the summer leading Britain’s astonishing sporting triumphs as the chairman of the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, and the British Olympic Association.
But despite his own busy agenda, he still found time to applaud our campaign in which we encouraged people to get fit in Olympic year.
He told the Mail: “We want to use the power of the Games to inspire lasting change in people’s lives, and this campaign, and its results, are a perfect example.”
But that’s not the only boost for our campaign. A new national study has shown a huge increase in the numbers of people getting fit in Hartlepool in 2012.
A Sport England survey called Active People measured every local authority in the UK for the numbers of people doing moderate levels of sport (which meant people had to have done at least four sessions of moderately intense exercise for 30 minutes in the previous 28 days).
Hartlepool’s participation rates went up by 5.1 per cent between October 2011 and October this year - the second highest in the North-East.
As part of our Race For Fitness drive, we teamed up with Hartlepool Borough Council to promote the huge levels of sporting facilities available locally.
Principal recreation officer Maxine Crutwell said Race For Fitness had been one of a number of influencing factors in Hartlepool getting fitter in 2012.
“It undoubtedly helped us to get the results,” she said. “Because Hartlepool is such a small town, Race For Fitness was one of those things where people cotton on quite quickly, and then everyone comes on board. There was a knock-on effect.”
She added “It has been a town wide effort. Hartlepool has a strong sporting culture. The voluntary sector plays a significant part in this, dedicating long hours, often for no pay, for their love of sport.
“I don’t think we could say Race For Fitness is the specific reason for the increase but it has definitely contributed and raised awareness.”
Twelve months ago, we launched Race For Fitness to get people running, cycling, quitting smoking and cutting back on the booze.
We wanted to boost the town’s fitness in the biggest sporting year the UK had seen for decades.
But the results surpassed anything we could ever have hoped for.
We pulled in hundreds of backers as well as support from fitness groups, martial arts associations, running groups, health charities, quit smoking groups, pilates and yoga experts.
Town dignitaries also heralded the efforts of the Mail.
Mayor Stuart Drummond, pictured below, said: “I saw a recent statistic which showed that nine of the top ten television programmes in 2012 were sport related. It shows people were captivated by the Olympics and Paralympics.
“It was all well and good for people to say they were backing Race For Fitness but for them to actually do something about it was the main thing. That was impressive.”
He said the challenge now was to keep people involved in sport and that was to be Hartlepool’s Olympic legacy.
“It is high up on the agenda for the town’s Health and Wellbeing Board. Come April, the responsibility for public health transfers from the NHS to local authorities and it will be incumbent on the council to get people to stay fit. There will be a lot of campaigns.”