The benefits of sport have been outlined in a new government strategy.
The Strategy for Sport 2014-2024 – published this week by Manx Sport and Recreation, part of the Department of Education and Children (DEC) – comes with the strapline ‘early intervention and prevention is better than cure’ and with the aim of getting ‘more people, more active, more often’.
The strategy outlines how making sporting opportunities available to all will contribute to the government’s priorities – growing the economy, rebalancing the budget and protecting the vulnerable.
With physical inactivity costing the island an estimated £11.6 million a year, obesity alone £5.6 million of that, staying fit and active leads to fewer GP visits, less time off work and reduced hospital spending.
Participation in sport gives people goals for their leisure time, offsetting costly social problems such as unemployment, exclusion, crime and anti-social behaviour.
Hosting sporting events, other than the TT, leads to £3 million being generated in tourism.
Home-grown international sportsmen and woman generate valuable publicity for the Isle of Man around the world.
With a fifth of the island’s five-year-olds and half of adults overweight, increasing participation in sport and physical activity among the young is a major aim of the strategy. Improving data-gathering, expanding current programmes, promoting the value of walking and cycling to school and investigating the feasibility of ‘fitness testing’ children are aims of the strategy.
Involving more people in community sport, with the long-term benefits that brings, and affording disabled people greater access to sport are two other key objectives.
The strategy outlines how sport can improve the lives of looked-after children and young carers, whose academic progress, health and career chances can suffer. Early identification, mentoring and tailored opportunities for vulnerable groups are needed, the strategy says.
The document identifies how physical activity can aid those who already suffer from poor health. Pilot referral programmes for children and adults, run in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Care, are proving effective and should be extended and invested in, the strategy says, reaping long-term benefits for health budgets.
Extending sport as a method of improving social inclusion, and giving young people the chance to gain experience that may help them get jobs or further their education, are two more key objectives of the strategy.
Maintaining the island’s excellent sporting facilities and encouraging people into coaching are also among the objectives.
Ensuring ongoing sporting success, to inspire the next generation of athletes is also vital, the strategy says, with nurturing talent and securing funding key goals.
Launching the strategy at the National Sports Centre, David Anderson MHK, politial member of the DEC with responsibility for sport, said: ‘The island has an enviable sporting record and first class facilities and, while not all of us will be the next Olympic or Commonwealth Games medal winners, sport can play a part in improving all our lives.
‘This strategy sets out how taking part in sport from an early age can set us on the route to a healthy lifestyle; how involvement in sport can lead to fulfilment and how even people who are suffering from illness or injury can use physical activity to improve their lives.
‘Ultimately, a healthier population will spell greater economic productivity, fewer social problems and decreased spending on health – something that will benefit the entire island.’