Fred Turok on a call to action on physical activity

Fred TurokYesterday, Public Health Minister Anna Soubry, announced new investment to help kids become more active during and after school – all good news, but she also drew attention to the large numbers of people who are simply not active enough, which will undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on their health.

The evidence for this is based in part on the latest data on physical activity levels from Sport England’s Active People Survey. Whilst just over half of adults say they meet the Chief Medical Officers’ new, flexible 150 minutes a week recommendation for adults, many (44%) fall below this level. Of even greater concern are the more than a quarter of adults who are not even getting 30 minutes a week of moderate activity.

Much new evidence has also emerged in recent years showing the very real threat to our health from being sedentary. All of this amounts to burgeoning costs to the NHS and society in the order of £1.06 billion per annum for medical treatment and £6.5 billion in costs to the wider economy – quite staggering figures. If we were talking about smoking levels of around 44%, public health professionals would rightly be up in arms, so why are we not bearing down with the same vigour on inactivity – the ‘silent killer’?

As Sebastian Coe has remarked, inactivity could be a drag anchor for future generations. In 2008 only 32% of boys and 24% of girls were getting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. By any standards this is appalling and we are gravely letting down our kids. I believe that being active is hard wired into the DNA of all youngsters, but it’s the world we have created around them that stops children from playing outside and chains them to screens.

So I very much welcome the announcement of £1.1 million of funding for Play England to help local people organise temporary street closures to let kids play and the £3 million top up for Change4Life School Sports Clubs, which target the least active children. But we can’t just rely upon government funding to make things happen.

Children of today are the workforce of tomorrow and there are some outstanding Responsibility Deal pledges – like the Danone Nations Cup, StreetGames supported by Coca Cola and Lloyds Bank National School Sports Week – that clearly show that business ‘gets it’. There is compelling evidence that active kids concentrate better in school and demonstrate greater levels of numeracy.

Government is doing its bit, but we all have a duty as parents, role models, volunteers and business leaders to encourage an active generation who can go on to create the kind of vibrant economy this country deserves.

Active Travel 

Also this week the Prime Minister announced the twelve winners of a £94 million fund to create flagship cycling schemes in cities and national parks. In the eight cities Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, Newcastle, Bristol, Cambridge, Oxford and Norwich the aim is to invest in a safer cycling infrastructure that will raise cycling levels to those of London. Four national parks, New Forest, Peak District, South Downs and Dartmoor, will receive investment to boost recreational cycling. The cities can bid against an additional Department of Health fund of £1 million to support walking alongside cycling, also announced yesterday.

In Network chair blogs, Physical Activity Network

7 Responses to Fred Turok on a call to action on physical activity

  1. Newcastle says:

    I am frankly sick of the NHS and other departments and agencies of government indoctrination the population that the main problem with obesity is that children aren’t exercising enough these days.

    This totally ignores the most important factor in the ‘obesity crisis’ – diet.

    Adults are consuming thousands of calories via alcohol and fast food when they get drunk the weekend; families are living off takeaways and fast good; children are being brought up on convenience foods and sweets.

    Little is unrefined; little is in its natural form – the form in which humans have evolved to eat.

  2. Sue says:

    We’ll have even more problems if we only talk about the importance of physical activity in relation to obesity.

    Being physically active has huge benefits for physical and mental wellbeing.

    Obesity is absolutely about more than inactivity/exercise but we can’t afford to have a silo mentality about the causes and solutions.

    The response from ‘Newcastle’ should also be a warning about who people ‘listen’ to. If they’ve had enough of the ‘indoctrination’ of NHS/other g’ment depts and agencies how should be people be supported to deal with obesity etc? How does Change for life messaging fit with this thinking? Is it seen as part of the NHS/G’ment/agencies ‘indoctrination’?

  3. Tania@DH says:

    Physical activity brings important health benefits for children and young people including stronger muscles and bones, improved cardio-metabolic health and enhanced psychological wellbeing.

    It can also help to provide the skills and confidence to continue to be active through adolescence and into adulthood. Increasing physical activity can also have a role in maintaining a healthy weight, but we are very clear that for children who are overweight and obese, eating and drinking less is key to weight loss. The calorie reduction pledge of the Food Network provides wide-ranging options for businesses to cut and cap calories and complements increases in physical activity.

    Public Health Responsibility Deal Team, Department of Health.

  4. In the 1930’s boys consumed 3000kcals per day approx and girls consumed 2650kcals per day approx. This was discovered by detailed research into energy intake. The children of the 1930’s were malnourished not obese. The high calorie intake came from fat.
    In the year 2010 boys consumed 2345 kcals per day and girls 1770kcals per day and a lot of them are now obeses. So what’s changed, the fundamental change has been the huge introduction of fast food and sugary drinks.
    You can talk until you are blue in the face but until the are nourished correctly and I don’t mean few I mean nourished they will never stick to exercise plans because there body is lacking nutrients and therefore lacking energy. They are drowning in sugar and chemically processed food and its toxic.
    I would love to get into the schools and educate our next generation, there is so much confusion out there people are fed up.
    I also would love to speak to Fred Turok to discuss a business proposition we want the same things.

    • mark@dh says:

      Combating obesity and other diet related conditions is a priority for the Government. The Department of Health is working with industry, through the Responsibility Deal, to reduce fat, calories (including sugars) and salt in foods, and to encourage a greater consumption of fruit and vegetables.

      We are also keen to encourage all children and young people to accumulate 60 minutes or more of at least moderate intensity physical activity every day. The UK CMOs’ report Start Active, Stay Active published in 2011 sets out some of the ways this can be achieved.

      We recognise it is vital that children are equipped with as much knowledge as possible about healthy eating and what constitutes a balanced diet. This is why the Department for Education is strengthening the requirements on schools to teach about food and healthy eating.

      In the new National Curriculum, learning about food will be a key component for every pupil up to the age of 14.

  5. Si says:

    After all of the publicity, money and effort that the government has put into activity and incentives, I think that it is time that the responsibility goes back onto the individual to make a change and/or parents of obese children who need to make a lifestyle change. The motion may seem harsh but we need to make people accountable for their own actions rather than giving them the opportunity to use excuses such as “I tried that diet and it didn’t work” or “Exercise does nothing for me, I’ve tried it and did not get anywhere”. How do we know that they tried the diet or activity/exercise effectively?
    There is sufficient evidence to show that those who do make lifestyle changes do improve both health and weight; we need more evidence to prove that it is the lack of input from individuals that is holding them back so that projects and incentives receive more positive press and feedback.
    Incentives and help from the government are still important but the individual should have some responsibility to achieve results and if money and time is spent on the individual, their input should be tracked and accounted for and their data used toward their final result.
    We need to be strong enough to act and if the individual has not put adequate personal input into their lifestyle change, they will not receive help or discounts in the future or they will be responsible for some costs.
    With regard to children’s obesity, schools can change their food and offer healthy options, but those children that go home to pizza and chips and fast food etc every night will not learn. The parents need to be involved more and be accountable in the lifestyle change and the education of the child and be responsible for improvements.

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