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Keep calm and jog on | Over 100,000 in NI turn to running to relieve lockdown stresses

Pictured is Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Macmillan Move More Co-ordinator Aaron Irwin.

New research[i] published by Macmillan Cancer Support reveals that an estimated 116,000 people across Northern Ireland[ii] have turned to running or jogging to look after their mental health during the Covid-19 crisis.

One in 12 people in Northern Ireland (8%) – representing 116,000 people - said going running or jogging had helped them to de-stress since the first lockdown in March 2020, with the activity proving more popular than meditation or yoga (7%). Demonstrating the power of outdoor exercise, one in three of people in Northern Ireland said that it helped them feel calmer (33%), around one in four said it made them feel more positive (26%), whilst one in eight (13%) said it helped them to feel mentally stronger.

The research has been released to mark the ballot announcement of this year’s Virgin Money London Marathon, which is set to be the biggest marathon ever staged on Sunday 3rd October 2021, with 50,000 running from Blackheath to The Mall and another 50,000 running the virtual marathon from wherever they are in the world.

Macmillan is the Charity of the Year for Virgin Money and official charity partner for the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon and is inviting lucky runners who bagged themselves a ballot spot to join and fundraise for #TeamMacmillan, while reminding those who missed out that there is still time to apply for a Macmillan charity place.

Funds raised through the Macmillan places will help the charity provide vital support, at a time when Macmillan is facing a devastating loss of income due to Covid-19, and continue to do whatever it takes to be there for everyone, from day one of their cancer diagnosis.

The research shows that younger people across the UK are most likely to be ambitious new marathon runners, as almost a fifth of 18-34-year-olds (17%) have taken up running since March 2020, with one in 11 (9%) specifically focusing on long-distance running during lockdown.

Despite thousands of people lacing up their running shoes because of the pandemic, almost one in three people in Northern Ireland (31%) said they were not taking time to prioritise their wellbeing during the current national lockdown. One in four (26%) said that they are finding it harder to exercise outside at this time of year due to the cold weather and shorter days and others (18%) admitted that they were lacking the motivation to exercise, without having an end goal or challenge booked.

Macmillan Move More Co-ordinator Aaron Irwin for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council is one of 11 Co-ordinators across Northern Ireland who help people living with cancer get active and knows only too well about the benefits of physical exercise for your wellbeing.

Aaron Irwin said:

“Studies have shown the incredible benefits of an active lifestyle. Once you’ve started, you’ll probably find that being active becomes an enjoyable part of the way you live. Most people begin to notice the benefits quickly. You’ll feel less tired, less stressed and you’ll look better and have more confidence. Making these changes and knowing the benefits to your health can keep you going, even on days when it’s hard to feel motivated. If you’re struggling, don’t be hard on yourself. Just remind yourself of all the benefits and get started again.”

Tania Bailie, Relationship Fundraising Area Manager for Northern Ireland at Macmillan Cancer Support, said:

“We’re thrilled to be the official Charity of the Year for the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon and can’t wait to cheer on our Team Macmillan runners in what is set to be the biggest marathon ever.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on our income, at a time when people living with cancer need our support more than ever to help navigate through this anxious period. The vital funds raised through runners and supporters of this year’s event will help us continue to do whatever it takes to be there for everyone living with cancer.

“Whether you’re planning to run the 26.2 miles, cheer on our runners from the side-lines or make a donation as part of Team Macmillan, you will be helping us be there for everyone, from day one of their diagnosis.”

Join #TeamMacmillan with your ballot spot or apply for a Macmillan Cancer Support charity place in the 2021 Virgin Money London Marathon, at: [i] Macmillan Cancer Support/YouGov survey of 2054 adults, including 58 people in Northern Ireland. Fieldwork was undertaken between 18th - 19th January 2021. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

[ii] 8% figure from ref i applied to official population statistics. Source: Office for National Statistics. Estimates of the population for the UK, England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Adult population for Northern Ireland in mid 2019 was around 1,453,000.

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