A Healthy Olympic Legacy

The last race has run, the last hurdle jumped and the baton has now been passed on to the next host city, Rio de Janeiro. But for the UK, London 2012 was undoubtedly a success, both on and off the sporting field. The question now is, what lasting impact will this major event have on the UK and more specifically the health of this great nation?

As Team GB's stars such as Bradley Wiggins, Jessica Ennis and Andy Murray were picking up gold medals in their respective events the organisers of this Olympiad, whose tagline was to "inspire a generation", will have hoped that this would make an impression on the young and old alike. 

There is a hope that such focus on sports across the past 16 days would see people take to tennis courts, athletics tracks and sports fields up and down the country.

Bradley Wiggins and Sir Chris Hoy's success in the cycling events has seen a surge in the sales of bicycles, with one retailer's figures shooting up by 35 per cent since the Olympics began. 

Even in events where Team GB were not as successful, such as the swimming, companies saw a 77 per cent rise in the number of trunks sold, as well as a reported 44 per cent rise in goggle sales.

This all suggests that more people are getting out and about and getting the required exercise to keep fit and ultimately assist in a healthier lifestyle as a result of the games.

Whilst it is very difficult to determine now and will be difficult to quantify in five years time, is the lasting effect the Olympics will have for the future health of the nation.

The games have highlighted all that is great about sport and what it can do for people's health, self esteem and confidence. As the embers peter out from the Olympic torch, the Paralympians will be next to take the stage and continue to inspire a generation.

Experts have predicted that the Paralympic Games are also likely to have a positive impact on the health of individuals with disabilities and the government aims to capitalise from both Games on the 'demonstration effect', whereby athletes act as role models to inspire increased participation in sport.

A Health-on-Line spokesperson commenting on the potential impact of the Olympic Games said: "There is an already sizeable and growing number of people in the UK with long-term health conditions, such as obesity.

"The London Olympic Games provides an excellent opportunity to help motivate people to take a more active involvement in sport and exercise which could have a significant impact in preventing the development of many of these conditions."

Only 40% of UK men and 28% of UK women participate in the recommended weekly amount of exercise. While the provision of adequate facilities and groups to help the uptake of sports will undoubtedly be a factor, even a 10% improvement could have a significant impact on the long-term health of the country and help bring about cultural change towards a healthier lifestyle.

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