Category Archives: inclusion

Running a thousand and one miles for inclusion, love and openness

In the middle of August I will set off on a journey that will take me across Iran, more than 2000 kilometers, on foot from Bazargan, on the Iranian border towards Turkey, to Sarakhs, on the Iranian border towards Turkmenistan. The route will take me along the Silk road and the adventure is named ”Thousand and one miles” after the fairy tale.

I will the first person to attempt to make this crossing and I will do it alone. I plan to run about 35 kilometers per day and the journey will take me nearly three months – allowing plenty of time for meeting people and experiencing the culture along the way.

It took me a while to figure out why I so strongly wanted to do this trip. It was something echoing inside, demanding that I do it.

Running is of course about enjoying beautiful nature and meeting friendly people; there will be plenty of both in Iran. But surely there are easier ways to enjoy beautiful countryside and meet friendly people than running, as a single woman, through a Muslim country with sharia laws. Why? What did I want to prove?

Eventually I realised that it is about fear and about love. It is about the way I want our society and our world to be. I want it to be based on love. Today I see that fear is ruling parts of how we live our lives and how we build our world and societies. I see xenophobic political parties growing in popularity, in Sweden and elsewhere. I want to challenge my own fears and prejudices as well as those of the world around me.

It might not be possible to change the world by running but perhaps I could change myself, the people I meet and inspire a seed of change in those who hear about my run? At least it is worth a try.

By doing this trip, I hope to bring people closer to each other, and to contribute to a more tolerant, peaceful and loving world.

I want love to be the basis of all Life; I think that is why we are born and why we are here.

Kristina Paltén is a Swedish adventurer and ultra-runner. She has previously ran from Turkey to Finland, completing the journey home to Sweden by kayaking across the Bay of Botnia and she is the currently world record holder of the longest distanced covered in 48 hours on a treadmill.

Physical activity and older Europeans

It turns out that the frequency of physical activity amongst Europeans tends to decrease with age. The 2014 Eurobarometer survey on Sport and Physical Activity indicated that a majority of 15-24 year olds (64%) exercise or play sport at least once a week. However, this number drops to a disturbing 30% for the 55+ age group.

While this disparity may seem to make sense – as we do tend to associate physical activity with younger people – this is in fact a major problem. By 2020, a quarter of Europeans will be over 60 years of age. This will have a significant impact on our health and health care systems as well as on our economy and communities. That is why it is so important to support active and healthy ageing.

Physical activity is extremely important for older adults. In addition to the many benefits we’ve already discussed, it:

  • Improves immune function, stamina, muscle strength and balance;
  • Reduces falls and injuries, helps maintain the ability to live independently;
  • Helps reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses; and
  • Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.

According to the WHO – older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. That’s not much, and the benefits are well worth the effort. It’s never too late to start, but be sure to check with your doctor before venturing into a new activity.

Remember, active time can be social time – so track down a physical activity program in your community – one that offers aerobic, strengthening and flexibility components, or form a walking group with your friends. Get into gardening, or take up swimming or Tai Chi.

The options are endless – be creative, #BeActive.

 

Physical activity: The gender gap

Let’s talk about women for a moment.

We’ve given you statistics about how active Europeans are, and as you know by now, the numbers aren’t looking good. Unfortunately, they are even worse for women. In fact, 63% of women in the EU never or seldom exercise or play sport.

The WHO underscores the importance of physical activity for women by highlighting its contribution to building self-esteem and confidence, and providing a vehicle for social integration and equality for women in society. Research has shown that sport can help to challenge gender norms and provides women and girls with opportunities for leadership and achievement.

Furthermore, physical activity has been shown to reduce the occurrence of many of the diseases and conditions that affect women across globe, including breast cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

So, what’s the hold up?

Men in the EU play more sports than women overall. However, the disparity is particularly marked in the 15-24 age group, with young men tending to exercise considerably more (71% at least once a week) than young women (50% at least once a week).

What’s shocking is that the gender divide in physical activity starts as early as seven years old! Indeed, according to a study in the British Medical Journal[i]., only 38% of seven-year old girls, compared to 63% of boys were achieving the required amount of physical activity.

This needs to stop.

The European Week of Sport is working to make sure ALL Europeans get moving and work together to build a #BeActive society. Ensuring that girls have access to opportunities to engage in sport and physical activity – particularly in the educational setting – is a critical step to closing this gender gap.

[i] Griffiths, Dezteux, et.al, “How active are our children? Findings from the Millenium Cohort Study”. British Medical Journal, 2013

Sport: Strengthening communities and supporting social inclusion

Let’s take a more serious tone for a moment, and discuss one of the major reasons we are promoting the European Week of Sport. We haven’t talked much about it so far in this blog, but it one that is a fundamental motivations behind much of our work: social inclusion.

Sport is a universal language, one that can be spoken by everyone, no matter their gender, religion, disability, age or income group. It has also been recognised by the United Nations, the World Bank, and many experts around the world as being a powerful tool with which to combat social exclusion, promote intercultural learning and reduce social tensions.

At this point (if you’ve been reading our blog!), most of you know the physical and mental benefits of sport – and how important it is to get European to #BeActive as early in life as possible. But another incredibly important reason to get children and youth involved in sport is that it helps them build strong values – self-discipline, respect for one’s opponent, fair play, teamwork and adherence to mutually agreed upon rules and structure. These values, which embody some of the best that sport has to offer, carry over into people’s everyday lives, into their homes and workplaces and more importantly into their community.

So you see, it’s a win-win for Europe and for Europeans if we can achieve the objectives of this campaign. Think about it: how many other things offer the innumerable benefits of sport? Healthy bodies, healthy minds, creativity, success, self-esteem, healthy economies, thriving communities, FUN…we could go on, but we think you get the idea.

Yes, we want to get Europeans moving, but this movement is about so much more than just that. Join us, we can’t do this without you. #BeActive