You know things have got bad when parliament are having to sort out the health of the nation, the same fat cat, pie eating, jump in a black taxi type of politicians trying to sort us lot out...well I guess I shouldn't be so judgemental...Boris cycles after all doesn't he? But the point is our country is facing a massive health scare, so big in fact that this week it was debated in parliament for the first time in at least 800 years.
What am I talking about?
No not obesity, no not even Ebola...something far more far reaching, scary yet solvable...
The governments Minister for Public Health Jane Ellison, declared that physical inactivity was 'more important than obesity' and the chair of the debate Nick Smith, MP for Blaenau Gwent remarked that 'we have been successful in turning the tide on smoking,' and that the same priority must now be given to inactivity. He noted that we must 'walk, dance and play our way to wellbeing,' rather than maintaining a focus on competitive sport.
Apparently 73% of as are not doing anywhere near the recommended amount of movement our bodies need to be healthy and aside from the obvious outcomes such as weight gain our sedentary lifestyles are responsible for diseases and conditions such as diabetes, dementia, cancer, high blood pressure, and depression and its crippling our economy too (our health and social care systems in particular).
This is all quite depressing right? So what are we going to do about it is what I want to know.
I went along to a conference in London last week delivered by ukactive a not-for-profit body comprised of members and partners from across the UK active lifestyle sector, they have a long-standing and uncompromising vision to simply get more people, more active, more often - I guess a little bit like my mission!
The summit saw the launch of "Steps to solving inactivity" a report outlining findings from the largest national review of physical activity interventions of its kind showing that more than one in four people fail to achieve 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week. Just 30 minutes...what are people doing with their time? I mean all of us can fit a 30-minute brisk walk into our day right?
Women in particular are a major concern with stats showing that they are less likely to be active at every stage of life right up to 65 when they even out with their male counterparts. Tanni Grey Thompson charmed the audience with her no crap messages around physical literacy, and the fact you can be Fit and Fat (whoop, whoop) she made a special plea to females when she said
"Women need to say sod it more and find time for themselves...don't worry about cleaning the home, get out and exercise"
Well, you don't need to tell me twice.
But don't for a minute think this is just a UK problem, these ghastly figures can be found all across the globe, although embarrassingly we are kind of topping the tables right now with inactivity levels double those of Germany and France...and get this...20% higher than those in the United States.
It must be something to do with all those Biggest Loser type programmes on saterlite TV channels that have us all believin that the Americans are far worse than us, but this is in part where the problem lies because we still think that obesity is intrinsically linked to inactivity and ultimately laziness, and that it is the fatties of this world that are the problem. If only.
Finally we have evidence that shows that this is not just a problem for overweight people, this is a problem for all of us. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US and in that vein we must find a collaborative, sustainable (not just a 5 minute wonder of an idea) solution to get us back on track.
I had never thought of it this way, but apparently the longer you keep active as an older person, i.e. being able to go to the loo yourself the longer you stay out of the care system, where alternatively the sooner you end up in the care system the quicker you are to die and the more you cost the taxpayer. I dare say you are likely to be a bit peeved at your body's failure to comply and your loss of independence and therefore happiness.
One of the final speakers for the day was professor Kevin Fenton, Director of Health & Wellbeing, at Public Health England, who spoke clearly about the need for everybody to be active everyday, and he also alluded to the role of digital technologies in helping us to get there which is useful considering the role of social media and blogs in particular for sharing ideas around health. He said that ultimately we had to "be the change we want to see" a quote borrowed I do believe from Gandhi himself.
I boldly responded to this comment when it came for questions, sticking my hand up before realising it
"Great presentation Kevin, I especially liked the we must be the change we want to see bit, but here we are 500 people from the health, fitness and sports sector who have all been sitting on our backsides for well over 7 hours today. What do you think of that?"
It wasn't that I was trying to be difficult or critical of the conference organisers (as they had arranged for someone to keep us active through the day, but they had called in sick) it's just this was a perfect opportunity to illustrate that it is us...YOU and ME that have to be this change, not them out there, not those midsection shots of fat people eating burgers the media love showing whenever we discuss health.
So take note peeps, we can't leave it up to everyone else, particularly not the politicians or the health experts, they can't make us change, not really...but we can...we can also inspire others to change too believe it or not. Moving our bodies, getting the heart going and working up a sweat needs to feel normal and we need to be doing this stuff daily...with or without the support of lycra.
Are you geared up to help overcome inactivity in your area? And more importantly are you gonna get off your backside and lead by example, because that is the thing which matters the most you know. YOU!!