County fighting fat with more exercise

ADULTS and young people in Suffolk are being proactive in the fight against obesity and getting more exercise than the national average, according to a latest report.

Craig Robinson

ADULTS and young people in Suffolk are being proactive in the fight against obesity and getting more exercise than the national average, according to a latest report.

A survey by Sports England shows that 21.7% of those aged 16 and over had 30 minutes of physical activity at least three times a week at moderate intensity in 2007/08.

It is higher than the national average of 21.3% and also greater than Essex, which stands at 21.4%.


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Both counties have seen a significant rise since a similar survey in 2005/06 - with the biggest increase in Babergh, which has experienced the largest rise in the east of England.

The survey - which interviewed 191,000 people - has been welcomed by sports and health bosses across the county as evidence that the message about healthy living is starting to get through, although there was a warning that lots more work still needs to be done.

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Adam Baker, Suffolk project manager for the 2012 Olympic Games, said: “Its obviously good news and bears out some of the excellent work we have done around the county in an effort to get more people engaging in physical activity.

“Hopefully it will be a good springboard as we move towards 2012. The Government is looking to get one million more people involved in sport in time for the Olympics and in Suffolk we're hoping to achieve a 1% increase year on year. It's a big ask but we've made a fantastic start.”

Health chiefs in the county believe the cost of treating obesity could rise to as much of £65million a year by 2050 unless efforts are made to improve.

Earlier this week the EADT revealed that £250,000 had been awarded to Suffolk as part of a government pilot scheme offering reduced gym membership for 16 to 25-year-olds.

Young people from Babergh, St Edmundsbury and Forest Health will be able to use selected health and leisure centres for just £5 a month under the plans, which launch in April.

At the same time over 60s and under 16s will benefit from free swimming after the Department for Culture, Media and Sport awarded local authorities in Suffolk £621,359 to subsidise the cost until 2011.

Mr Baker said these two projects will have a significant impact on participation.

“This forms another key strand of the Suffolk 2012 Olympic and Paralympic legacy plan, as we seek to use the momentum of the forthcoming London Games to promote interest and create more opportunities for people to take part in sport and physical activity,” he said.

It is estimated the current cost of tackling obesity in the county - where a quarter of adults are thought to be obese - is around £10m.

If current trends continue, it is thought that more than half of all adults in Suffolk will be obese by 2050 - 60% of men, 50% of women and about 25% of children.

Sally Hogg, head of health improvement partnerships at NHS Suffolk, said: “We are pleased that this research has shown an increase in the number of people playing sports, as taking regular exercise is one of the simplest ways for people to improve their health.

“Encouraging more people to exercise more often is a key element of the Healthy Ambitions Suffolk strategy, which aims to make Suffolk the healthiest county in Britain by 2028.

“Exercise is not only physically beneficial, but can also help improve people's mental health and sense of wellbeing, and as such is vitally important.”

A spokesman for Babergh District Council said: “We believe that we have made a contribution through a number of initiatives including Active South Suffolk - which involves us working with schools and other leisure providers to improve access to facilities across the district.”

Jennie Price, Sport England's chief executive, said: “The results show we are heading in the right direction, but also highlight some of the challenges we face as we build momentum for community sport in the run-up to London 2012.”

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Percentage of the adult population in Suffolk participating in physical activity three days a week for 30 minutes at moderate intensity

Local authority Participation 05/06 (%) Participation 07/08 (%)

Babergh 23.0 28.6

Forest Heath 24.4 22.1

Ipswich 16.6 16.5

Mid Suffolk 19.5 22.1

St Edmundsbury 19.2 24.0

Suffolk Coastal 21.6 23.3

Waveney 17.2 18.0

Suffolk 19.8 21.7

Percentage of the adult population in Essex participating in physical activity three days a week for 30 minutes at moderate intensity

Local authority Participation 05/06 (%) Participation 07/08 (%)

Braintree 20.9 17.8

Chelmsford 20.9 23.3

Colchester 22.9 23.3

Maldon 21.0 25.6

Tendring 16.2 19.9

Essex 20.1 21.4

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