Thousands of COVID-related deaths could be prevented if successive governments had tackled the country's obesity crisis in time, according to Dame Sally Davies.
The former chief medical officer said there was a "direct correlation between obesity and a high mortality for COVID".
With one of the highest rates of obesity in the world – and the second-highest in Europe – the UK has seen one of the highest death rates from COVID-19.
According to official figures, people classed as obese (those with a BMI greater than 30) are 48 per cent more likely to die of COVID-19.
In an interview with The Times
, Dame Sally urged the NHS to start acting as a preventative body rather than just looking after those who are ill.
Exercise – alongside a healthy diet – is proven to be the best solution in combatting obesity and keeping fit.
The government's decision to close gyms, leisure centres and other fitness facilities during lockdown has been met with a furious backlash from members of the public, with a 600,00-strong petition prompting a full Parliamentary debate.
This debate has been confirmed for next Monday (23 November) and ukactive is calling on fitness industry professionals to write to their MPs
to lobby on key points.
The closing of fitness facilities has also resulted in emergency calls from across the sector to class physical activity an "essential service"
, so it can remain open at all times.
Findings from a recent investigation by HCM
show there is a correlation between countries with lower obesity rates and those where governments have kept gyms open during lockdowns.
Clear and strong evidence shows that keeping gyms and leisure centres open would support the NHS and reduce deaths from COVID-19.