Physical inactivity levels across the UK should be a source of national embarrassment. This was the damning verdict from Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, chair of ukactive, in her speech at the ukactive Summit this morning.
While Team GB might have enjoyed huge success in the Rio Olympics and Paralympics this summer – proof that Britain has the ability to be a sporting superpower at an elite level – Grey-Thompson noted: “We mustn’t allow a strong showing in the medal table to mask the fact that, when it comes to mobilising the general public, Britain finds itself seriously stuck in the blocks.”
She continued: “To be blunt, physical inactivity is a shame on our great nation – a shame that costs Britain £20bn each year and that directly contributes to one in every six deaths.
“Every day, parents, grandparents, wives and husbands are dying because they live in a society that doesn’t place enough emphasis on the importance of physical activity.
“Inactivity levels in Britain are double those of Germany and France, and more than 20 per cent higher than those in the United States – and they’re projected to rise a further 15 per cent by 2030. We’re limping towards an early grave because we’re not moving enough.”
Grey-Thompson used her speech to call on the public to support the NHS. “We must empower people to take responsibility for their health by making the right lifestyle choices,” she said. “This will require a paradigm shift from a health system that treats illness to one that supports wellness.
“Our sector has the potential to play a leading role in this mission. If we reach for a new level, we can become the preventative frontline of the NHS.”
To deliver on this goal, Grey-Thompson called for a £1bn regeneration scheme to transform the UK’s ageing fleet of leisure centres into community wellness hubs, combining swimming pools, gyms and sports halls with GP drop-in centres, libraries and police services – a one-stop-shop for public services.
“Putting physical activity and wellbeing at the heart of community infrastructure is the only long-term solution to save the NHS from bankruptcy,” she said.
“Innovative cross-sector funding models can leverage a 10:1 ratio of private sector funding for public investment, which means that £100m of government funding can stimulate a £1bn overhaul of our leisure stock.
“It’s a fraction of the cost of the £55bn HS2 project, or the £17bn Third Runway, and yet it could save thousands of lives.”
For more information on the proposed £1bn regeneration scheme click here.