The recent study of participation in sport by children and young adults threw up some pretty concerning data. The ESRI/Sports Council research found less than one-fifth of primary school children and just 12 per cent of secondary students are getting the recommended one hour a day of physical activity.
There is little doubt that we are becoming a more sedentary nation with associated health problems such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers on the rise. But if our kids and young adults are finding it hard to get into the exercise habit, how are the rest of us meant to fit it into our busy lives?
No matter how many articles or studies we read about the health benefits of regular activity – from improved mental health to counteracting the impact of our seasonal gorging – finding the time and motivation to exercise is not easy.
But if there has been one positive of our economy hitting the rocks, it’s that more of us are finding that time to exercise. Outdoor activities in particular have spiked in popularity and, among them, running is growing fastest with 9 per cent of the population claiming to run regularly, according to another Sports Council study from last summer.
Earlier this year The Irish Times began to look at what we could do to help and encourage our readers along the path to fitness. We quickly focused on running as the first activity to promote. While many of us are enthusiastic runners, we are not coaches and so we have teamed up with Mary Jennings of ForgetTheGym, an outdoor fitness company which helps get people, particularly women, active, outdoors and motivated. Since 2006 over 1,500 ladies have become runners by following ForgetTheGym's programmes.
Together we have created Get Running, an online course that will start on Monday, January 13th and will run over eight weeks. Each Sunday you’ll be emailed your instructions for the week as well as links to videos providing an overview of what’s going to happen that week and relevant tips and techniques to help you progress.
Every week we’ll also have a one-hour running forum where Mary and other relevant experts such as physiotherapists, motivational coaches and trainers will be available to answer your queries.
Get Running is designed to help those people who might not have the confidence or self-belief to think they can become runners. It starts with walking and builds up gradually from there so that at the end of eight weeks, if you follow the programme, you’ll be able to run for 30 minutes non-stop.
This is not a military training camp, a recruitment drive for ironmen or a vanity exercise for toned bodies. Those groups are already being well catered for elsewhere.
As a “graduation” from the programme, we’ll be encouraging participants to come along and join us at one of the Parkrun 5km events that take place around the country every weekend. We’ll announce the date for that closer to the time.
Interested? Well then, sign up now using the subscription box on this page. All you’ll have to commit is half an hour three times a week and we’ll be here to help you along the way.
John Collins is the acting editor of Health + Family.