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Loughborough University experts help create online Olympic tool

Sports experts at Loughborough University have helped create a new online tool designed to inspire couch potatoes in the run-up to the Olympic Games.

With the countdown to the London Olympics 2012 under way, anyone wanting to become more active can log on to the new NHS website and find out which sport best suits them.

The new tool at www.nhs.uk/olympics launches today (Tuesday, August 24) and matches people to the sports which best suit them by creating a personalised profile of the user’s sporting “type”.

It recommends five sports to try based on a series of questions and tests assessing personality, sporting preferences and reactions. For example, a shooting target test gauges precision and reaction to speed. 

Users are then guided to activities going on in their area, with an interactive map featuring links to over 35,000 sports centres and clubs. 

The tool was developed by NHS Choices in association with Loughborough University’s School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, with input from the British Olympic Association.

Sport and Performance Psychologist Dr David Fletcher, who led the Loughborough University research on this project, said: “This has been an exciting project to work on with the NHS. The School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences has a reputation for world-leading research and this project helps ensure that this work has a positive and direct impact on wider society and people’s quality of life. 

“The London 2012 Olympic Games provides a wonderful opportunity for this country.  Loughborough University is committed to supporting the delivery of sporting and health improvement that is the desired legacy of the Games for the population of the UK.  

“Lord Coe has spoken about the ‘memorable moments’ the Games will no doubt provide and this interactive tool aims to turn that inspiration into action; getting more people, more active, and enjoying the positive benefits that physical activity can bring to their lives.’’

The Olympics tool contributes to the Government’s aim of securing a genuine and lasting legacy from the London Olympic and Paralympic Games. 

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said: “There is excitement in the air with the Olympics coming and there’s never been a better time for people to get inspired about doing more exercise. 

“The Olympics tool helps and encourages people to try something which suits their abilities and personality, but which they may never have previously considered. Whether you’re bored of the gym, don’t normally exercise or that you feel exercise isn’t for you, there are ideas for everyone for things to do locally. 

“What we want is that, in two years time, there will be many more of us following in the footsteps of our sporting heroes as well as cheering them on.”

Olympic silver medallist swimmer Sharron Davies said: "There's never been a better opportunity, with the 2012 Olympics just around the corner, for people to get inspired to be more active and healthy. It can often be difficult to know where to start and that is why the ‘What’s my Sport?’ tool is so clever. By getting people thinking about what sport or activity might suit them and pointing them to be what's available locally, it will hopefully get people off the sofa and into their training kit."

Olympic gymnast Louis Smith said: "The best thing about the Olympics is that it caters for everybody. That's why the ‘What’s my Sport?’ tool is so helpful. Whether you've done exercise before or not, it suggests sports and activities that you might never have considered but could love. You're much more likely to exercise regularly and get fit if you find something that you enjoy doing. This is an excellent first step towards that." 

Hugh Robertson, Minister for Sport and the Olympics said: “London 2012 will feature 26 Olympic sports and 20 Paralympics sports, each needing different qualities and skills. With so many different sports out there, there is something for everybody and this is a great way to find out what suits you best.”

Over 27 million adults in England are not doing enough exercise, with 14 million not even managing half an hour of moderate exercise a week. The tool targets people at all fitness levels, so that those who don’t usually work out are introduced to a wide range of sports and activities they can build into everyday life. 

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 10/131

1.  The tool is available at www.nhs.uk/olympics

2.  David Fletcher is a British Psychological Society Chartered Psychologist, British Sport and Exercise Sciences Accredited Scientist, Association of Applied Sport Psychology Certified Consultant, British Olympic Association Consultant Psychologist, and United States Olympic Committee Registered Psychologist. His research focuses on the psychology of sporting excellence and how it can be applied to other high performance domains. His work provides insights into how high achievers deliver sustainable performance in pressured environments. David consults with world and Olympic level athletes from a variety of sports, and works closely with sport organisations on creating environments and cultures that enable high performance. 

3.   Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

4.  NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk) is the official website of the NHS. In addition to providing thousands of pages of NHS accredited content on conditions, treatments and healthy living, it allows the public to compare and comment on the performance of hospitals, GPs and many other NHS services.  The site is now the biggest health information site in Europe, regularly attracting 9 million users a month.

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