Fitness & Health

New physical activity plan to curb our couch potato culture

couchpotatoDancing, swimming and walking are just some of the activities proposed in ‘Be Active, Be Healthy’ – a new strategy that aims to get the country’s couch potatoes off their sofas.

More than 27 million adults in England are not getting enough exercise and 14 million don’t complete 30 minutes a week.

The new plan puts physical activity at the heart of communities and at the centre of local authorities’ efforts to tackle obesity, which is responsible for 9,000 premature deaths each year in England.

Key measures include:

• Partnerships with both private and voluntary organisations to get people moving in their local communities, such as a new ‘Learn to Swim’ programme for adults as part of the Government’s ‘Free Swimming’ scheme with the Amateur Swimming Association and Sport England

• A working group to explore how we can get all generations active through dance, harnessing a ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ fever that has swept the nation and the expansion of the Walking the Way to Health Scheme which supports over 538 local health walk schemes.

• A new national Physical Activity Alliance will pool the resources of the voluntary and private sector, such as leisure centres and grass root organisations, to get the nation moving.

• More GPs giving brief advice on getting fit to their patients such as prescribing physical activities just as readily as drugs.

• £4 million for ‘County Sport Partnerships’ to help bring together councils, Primary Care Trusts and other grassroots providers to co-ordinate and deliver physical activities alongside sports.

Speaking at the Local Government Association conference, Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo called for a ‘yes, you can’ approach to getting people active including more opportunities for older people to become physically active, increased access to Britain’s coastline and an end to the ‘No Ball Games’ culture.

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Andy Burnham said: “Getting two million people more active by 2012 would be an achievement unsurpassed anywhere in the world. It was a key reason why we were given the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is a big challenge, but I am confident that we can do it and make this country a healthier place for generations to come.

“From April millions of over 60s and young people will be able to swim for free thanks to a £140 million investment from Government, in partnership with local authorities”

Even before this announcement was made, 40% of local authorities were already rejecting the swim for ‘free swimming’ scheme, citing underfunding as the reason. (See our recent posting on this).