The British Red Cross and Sport England have been tackling loneliness during lockdown by helping older people stay fit and active at home.

Throughout the coronavirus crisis, a team of 'community connectors' has been supporting over-55s in Camborne and Redruth to stay connected through exercise, virtual meetings and activities that boost wellbeing.

It comes as new research, published during Loneliness Awareness Week, shows that lockdown has made the UK a lonelier place, with one in three adults saying they haven’t had a meaningful conversation in the last week.

British Red Cross executive director Zoë Abrams said: “Lockdown means many of us are feeling lonelier than we did before Covid-19.

“Sport and physical activity can reduce loneliness, creating links between people who may have otherwise not met. Whilst social distancing means that we may not be able to take part in these activities in the same way as before, we can still stay fit and be social in other ways.

“Connected communities are more resilient communities, and during this pandemic our volunteers are working hard to help older people in Camborne and Redruth stay connected both now and into the future.”

As the global health crisis has left another one in three Brits fearing their loneliness will get worse, the Red Cross has been helping people at risk of becoming isolated stay plugged into their community.

The charity’s staff and volunteers have been busy making phone calls to older residents, sharing tips for how to keep fit at home like seated exercises and sofa and pillow workouts.

They’ve also been introducing them to online exercises with the likes of Joe Wicks, 10 Today and NHS home workouts, while dropping off printed sheets to anyone without an internet connection.

Another innovation is the '5,000 step challenge', using pedometers to record people’s daily step counts, and afternoon tea sessions via Zoom.

Finally, they’ve been providing food parcels and medication to people unable to leave home because they are shielding or self-isolating.

Elizabete Hopkins, project manager for independent living at the British Red Cross, said: “Whether it's because they have lost a loved one or are vulnerable due to a health condition, we know this unprecedented global crisis has left many with an increased sense of anxiety and lower confidence, including people who are feeling lonely for the first time in their lives.

“For many, it's going to take time to recover and to return to normal life, and we would really encourage anyone who is feeling lonely in these difficult times to get in touch with their local Red Cross community connectors team.”

Mike Diaper, Sport England’s executive director for children, young people and tackling inactivity, said: “Sport and physical activity is well placed to enrich the lives of people who feel lonely or socially isolated.

“Most people are spending far more time at home, and many on their own, so keeping active is even more important. Our research shows that when we are more active, we’re less likely to feel lonely.

“Sport plays a crucial role in bringing people together to build relationships and give people a sense of belonging. With the opportunities to be active severely disrupted and some people feeling anxious about going outside to be active, we've been focusing on providing different ways for people to be active at home."