Leisure services should be considered as part of public health spending reviews to protect them from cuts and closure, according to the findings of a new report into Britain’s physical inactivity problem.
Ukactive’s Blueprint for an Active Britain, being launched later today, argues it should be mandatory for councils to provide leisure centres and green spaces to encourage people to exercise, especially in deprived areas. It says councils and care homes should also be required to offer free or subsidised physical activity sessions for older people.
The plan also calls for a dedicated fund for improving the health of local communities in line with priorities set out in the Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) and more support for schemes promoting active travel.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Paralympic champion and chair of ukactive, said: ‘With precious public services like the NHS already stretched to breaking point, we’ve got to be bolder about prevention - and that starts with getting people moving more.
‘In the same way that you’d see a dietician if you needed expert advice on food or a radiographer if you needed an X-ray, it makes sense for people to be referred to an exercise professional if they need help getting active.’ Figures suggest physical inactivity costs the UK economy up to £20bn per year and can contributes to one in six deaths, making it as dangerous as smoking.
The report has been produced by a coalition of health experts including former health minister and surgeon Lord Darzi, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), Royal Society for Public Health, the Nuffield Trust, Mind and Age UK.