Campaign to get Birmingham residents fighting fit ahead of Commonwealth Games spectacle

By Yusaf Akbar

The eyes of the sporting world will be on Birmingham as the city hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2022. A new scheme is hoping to improve the general health and fitness of city residents.

Sport England data has shown that nearly a third of people in Birmingham exercise for less than 30 minutes a week. They have partnered with the National Lottery and announced a £9.72 million grant to get the people of Birmingham more active. 

The grant is for Birmingham and Solihill to deliver the Active Communities project. 

The programme is being implemented by The Active Wellbeing Society and its aim is to get some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged people in the region fitter and more active. 

They include people with a disability, women and those who are less affluent. 

Sport England has also launched the #GetActiveBrum campaign to inspire local people to embrace sports ahead of the Commonwealth Games in 2022.

As part of the campaign Sport Birmingham held The Birmingham Inclusive Sports Festival.

The festival is designed and delivered by people with disabilities or long-term health conditions. It brings families and carers together to raise awareness of sport, health and wellbeing activities and to encourage people to try something new.

But how successful will the grant and campaign actually be to get more people in Birmingham active? 

Bryn Lewis, Cluster Manager from the Active Wellbeing Society explains that similar grants awarded to the organisation have been proven to be successful.  

Bryn Lewis

He said: “One of the biggest successes of the Active Wellbeing Society in recent years is the Big Birmingham Bikes project.  

“We’ve given 7,000 orange bikes away across the city in return for regular cycling. 

“Those bikes were funded in times of austerity which was quite a big risk. However the success of that project has been immense with over a million miles being cycled on bikes.

Big Birmingham Bikes project, The Active Wellbeing Society

“We’ve now got 22 community cycle groups across the city and that demonstrates the success of a grant like the National Lottery’s.”

The Co-operative Futures in partnership with The Active Wellbeing Society brought together local residents at Handsworth Park with many taking part in sporting activities, such as cycling, for the very first time.  

Focusing intensively in six areas, the Active Communities team and their local partners are working with residents, looking at what stops them from being active and finding ways to deal with the barriers. 

In each area, the programme will work closely with a Local Community Action Network, made up of local people and community organisations.

The networks will each be supported by a dedicated local community action officer recruited from the area.

Dee Manning, a Handsworth resident of 30 years, is one of the first officers.

Dee Manning

She said: “The barriers I’ve found individuals in the community have are isolation, mental health, financial, low confidence levels and for some mobility could be an issue.”

She describes her role as ‘hand holding’. 

“My role is to gently support people to become engaged in the sport activities we are offering. 

“Money doesn’t have to be an issue because all our services are free.”

She explains her role is about engaging with the community and showing them that sporting activities will benefit them.

According to Public Health England, physical inactivity is the fourth leading cause of premature death in the UK and costs the country an estimated £7.4 billion a year

BBC WM launched the Get Moving! Campaign to encourage people across Birmingham and the Black Country to move more, take up a new sport and get active. 

BBC WM Editor Sarah Harness said: “It’s an important time for the West Midlands, with the Commonwealth Games arriving in the region in 2022, so we want to start working on our legacy now, and BBC WM Get Moving! will be a part of this.”  

The BBC WM Community Games took place at the Alexander Stadium showcasing 50 different sports and activities, offering free taster sessions to the public.