Jamaica’s Usain Bolt won the Olympic 100 metres in 9.63 seconds on Sunday, reaching a peak speed of around 23mph in a dazzling display of athletic sprinting. On the flip side of that, a survey released this week has revealed that around 45% of adults believe they would be unable to run 100 meters without stopping.

To mark the start of Slimming World’s Miles for SMILES activity program, a program that promotes physical activity whilst raising money for the NSPCC, Slimming World together with YouGov conducted a survey involving 2,065 people, which discovered that 56% of women believed they would find it hard or impossible to run 100 meters compared with 31% of men.

The announcement of London hosting the Olympics was thought to encourage Brits to become more active. However, the survey showed that 75% of people, i.e. three out of four individuals are never physically competitive active, whilst over half, i.e. 55% are not physically active at all. In contrast, 6 out of 10 men or 59% enjoy watching sport on TV at least once every week, which is likely to increase during the Olympics.

Carolyn Pallister, Slimming World’s public health manager comments:

“These findings show how daunting the idea of physical activity can be for the many of us who lead completely sedentary lives. It’s easy to fall out of the habit of being active and the longer we go without doing it the less confident we feel. For people who are worried about their weight or poor fitness – and that’s the majority of the population – the thought of taking those first steps to a more active lifestyle can feel terrifying and, with busy lives, it’s easy to make excuses and decide that now just isn’t the right time to make a change.”

She continues: “It was hoped that the Olympics would leave a legacy of a more active Britain. Yet while I’m sure that the number of sport spectators has increased during the event, watching world-class athletes could actually be making some people feel less capable of being active themselves. That’s why the real focus of any program designed to help people become more active needs to be about helping people to build their confidence in their ability to make changes. Being encouraged to start slowly and find ways of being active that they enjoy and can build into their everyday life can help take the threat out of activity.

At Slimming World we find that by helping our members identify ways of moving more and supporting them to increase their activity levels gradually, we can help them to grow their confidence as they build up to a more active lifestyle. Whether it’s taking the stairs instead of the lift, swapping sedentary video consoles for active gaming like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect or trading nights in front of the TV for more active pursuits like taking a brisk walk, joining a zumba class or kicking a football around in the park, we see first-hand what a difference small, enjoyable changes can make.”

She concludes:

“Being active improves health, boosts mood, reduces stress and builds confidence. And when you’re losing weight it can also be a huge factor in helping you to keep the weight off. With all these benefits, it’s no wonder that once people find a way of being active that works for them as an individual, it can quickly become a habit that they just couldn’t bear to give up.”

Written by Petra Rattue