Cycling to live better – for longer

Hundreds of residents and staff at retirement villages, across the UK, joined celebrities in an epic 1,000-mile cycling challenge, amid new research findings on the link between exercise and mental health in over 55’s.

A survey commissioned by later living provider, Inspired Villages, found that 9 in 10 (92%) of UK adults aged 55-plus believe staying active in later life affects mental wellbeing, while 86% agree their mental wellbeing is boosted when they exercise and complete activities that give them purpose and a sense of achievement.

In light of this new research, residents and staff at Inspired Villages’ later living communities have raised nearly £20,000 for mental health charity MIND by taking part in a five-day national cycling challenge. The Inspired 1,000 Mile Challenge saw a team of the Inspired Villages Leaders visit every village, from Devon to Cheshire, via pedal-power alone, which covered nearly 500 miles.   Meanwhile, residents, staff, friends and family at Inspired’s retirement villages nationwide were invited to make up the remaining 500 miles on static bikes situated in each of the communities.

Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, the challenge collectively clocked up nearly 10,000 miles – ten times the original 1,000-mile target.

The event took place as part of Inspired Villages’ commitment to the health and wellbeing of its residents, and to raise awareness of the importance of staying active in later life. Inspired Villages also recognises that mental health, particularly depression and loneliness, can be an issue for older people.

The research, which was commissioned by Inspired Villages, revealed a significant proportion of over-55s aren’t doing enough to look after their health. The findings also demonstrated the importance of staying active in later life and how mental wellbeing is boosted by exercise.

When asked what improves their wellbeing, more than two-thirds of those surveyed (68%) said spending time outside, 63% also said exercising and 58% said spending time with other people.

Resident, Stephen Butt – who will soon be moving into an Inspired village, joined the core cycle team for the full five days, completing a total of over 500 miles himself on a road bike.

He said: “It was fantastic to be part of such an amazing group. They helped me along, coaxing me and encouraging me – and I found the whole experience incredibly inspiring. The ride also gave me the chance to visit every Inspired village and see what the company is aiming to achieve. Its focus on health and wellbeing sets it apart from other later living operators.”

Jamie Bunce, CEO of Inspired Villages, who was part of the core team that cycled from Devon to Cheshire, comments: “The findings of our new research support our drive and commitment to giving our residents as many opportunities as possible to be active, sociable and happy. It was a real inspiration to see residents and colleagues all come together to support a very important cause”.

The Inspired 1,000 Mile Challenge was also supported by celebrities including TV fitness guru Mr Motivator, and TV’s Dr Dawn Harper and Julia Bradbury – all advocates of staying active in later life – who either put in some miles themselves or cheered on the teams and residents at each of the villages.

On the final day, Mr Motivator warmed up the crowd who cheered the cyclists across the finish line at Inspired’s most northerly village, Gifford Lea, near Chester, on Friday 24 May.

Mr Motivator (real name Derrick Evans), who rose to fame in the 1990s after appearing on the breakfast show GMTV, commented: “Exercise is so powerful; it can help us all to live happy, healthy lives – whatever our age. I should know because I’m in my 60s and I feel better than ever. Being active gives you a sense of achievement, keeps your mind and body healthy, and is a brilliant way to meet people and socialise. You could go for a walk with friends, join an exercise class or a cycling group – the important thing is that you find something you enjoy.”

Donations can be made via Inspired’s Just Giving page.

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