As the nation rebounds from a shock election result straight into one of the most defining periods in our history – the Brexit negotiations – our sector faces significant challenges to keep physical activity high on the political agenda.
There was arguably a collective failure from the main political parties across the election campaign to recognise and discuss the importance of physical activity to the country. And yet, other big ticket issues – the ageing population and crisis in social care, the future of the NHS, childhood obesity, mental health, disconnected and isolated communities – all rightly received the oxygen of national debate.
These are wide-ranging issues, but what links them is our sector’s potential to play a key role in each solution. There’s now a great opportunity for ukactive – with its members and partners – to position physical activity as the ‘golden thread’ that runs through the nation’s psyche, positively influencing national issues in a way that will retain the attention of decision makers, commentators and the public. This is the message ukactive is taking to government, offering our sector’s practical support in addressing some of Britain’s biggest societal challenges.
The obvious place to start is with young people. Today’s children are the least active ever, and we need a serious shake-up of the school day if we are to save Generation Inactive from a lifetime of ill-health. It’s not just a case of buying more bats and balls for the PE cupboard, we have to embrace creative solutions. That’s why we’re calling for a commitment to regular in-school measurement of children’s activity levels and the rollout of active mile schemes to ensure children are moving every day.
Giving our children an active start in life is essential, but how do we help maintain active lifestyles once they’re in the workplace? Sedentary office culture is wreaking havoc on workers’ health, so now is the time to adopt policies that boost the wellbeing of our workforce.
CYCLE TO WORK
To this end, we’re lobbying the Treasury to expand the hugely successful cycle to work salary sacrifice scheme – estimated to have saved £5.1bn through health benefits accrued through participation – to encompass gym passes, fitness products and accessories.
Active schools and workplaces will bring huge physical and mental health benefits, but the societal impact of physical activity is often overlooked. By putting activity at the heart of community infrastructure, we can empower all sections of society to lead more active lifestyles.
We’re continuing to push the case for a £1bn regeneration scheme to transform ageing leisure centres into new community wellness hubs that can serve as the preventative frontline of the NHS.
This is a tumultuous political period, but we’re confident that building a more productive relationship between the government and our sector will greatly improve our economic and social prosperity. To build a healthier and wealthier nation, we must make physical activity the natural choice for all aspects of society.