Essex NHS spends �6m on inactive people

PEOPLE'S reluctance to exercise is costing the NHS in north east Essex more than �6million a year, it has emerged.

Roddy Ashworth

PEOPLE'S reluctance to exercise is costing the NHS in north east Essex more than �6million a year, it has emerged.

Last night a leading councillor called for more to be done to persuade people to keep fit, stressing that exercise did not necessarily mean having to take part in competitive sports but could also relate to other less challenging activities.

NHS North East Essex, the primary care trust (PCT) covering Colchester and Tendring, spends an average of �6,109,370 annually on treatment for health conditions directly linked to physical inactivity, according to new Government figures.

National figures show that more than 27 million adults in England are not getting enough exercise and 14 million do not even complete 30 minutes a week.

The Government has launched a plan to put physical activity at the heart of local authorities' efforts to tackle obesity, which is responsible for 9,000 premature deaths each year in England.

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Yesterday Theresa Higgins, Colchester Borough Council's cabinet member with responsibility for leisure and sport, said the council would work alongside the PCT and the Government to try and combat the obesity timebomb facing Britain.

“We already work with the PCT in some areas, but we have got to get people to realise that fitness is not necessarily about elite sport. It is also about other physical activities such as dancing, cycling and walking,” she said last night.

“The main thing we as a council are doing is introducing free swimming for under 16-year-olds and over 60-year-olds from April. These are key groups.

“We need to make people realise that prevention is better than cure. People need to learn to build physical activity into their lifestyle.

“Even walking or cycling to work, for example, can make a big difference.

“We need joined-up thinking between organisations and agencies such as the council, other leisure service providers, the PCT and even schools.”

The Government plan, called “Be Active, Be Healthy,” includes measures such as:

* getting people of all generations active through dance

* the creation of 2,012 “Active Challenge” walking routes across England with Walk England to mark the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games

* the expansion of the Walking the Way to Health Scheme, which currently supports over 538 local health walk schemes

* GPs prescribing physical activities as treatments just as readily as drugs.

Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: “Physical activity is the key to stopping this country becoming the obesity capital of the world - and it makes us feel better.

“People of all ages can gain from doing more exercise but not enough of us do the magic 30 minutes, five days a week.

“We have to remove the 'no, you can't' messages across communities to create a 'yes, you can' culture - with more support, more encouragement and more opportunities across communities to get people active.”