Free gym for residents of deprived area

FREE gym sessions will be offered to people living in the most deprived area of north east Essex in a bid to help the residents live longer, it has emerged.

Annie Davidson

FREE gym sessions will be offered to people living in the most deprived area of north east Essex in a bid to help the residents live longer, it has emerged.

The news came on the same day that it was revealed only one in nine adults in the county takes regular exercise - which one health expert warned could lead to diabetes and heath disease.

North East Essex Primary Care Trust (PCT) is working with Tendring District Council on the pilot scheme for free gym sessions, which could be extended to other areas if it is successful.

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It will be launched in September and every resident of the deprived Pier Ward will be offered five free gym sessions at the council-owned leisure centre in Clacton.

The town centre ward has a life expectancy rate of 70.1 years compared to 83.4 in Alresford ward which has the longest life expectancy.

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Dr Mike Gogarty, director of public health at Essex County Council and North East Essex PCT, said yesterday that the scheme was one of a number which aims to address health concerns across the area.

The Essex Health Profile 2008 which has just been unveiled in draft form highlighted a number of issues including the adults taking little or no exercise and the fact that one in four adults in the country are obese - in line with the England average.

Dr Gogarty said yesterday: “Heart disease rates have been dropping quite quickly but the worry is that with obesity that will change.

“Obesity is getting worse quite dramatically to the extent that we are in danger in Essex, as with elsewhere, that children will now not live as long as their parents.

“That will be the first time that has happened unless we can reverse the epidemic we have seen across the country.”

He said this was directly linked to the lack of exercise - which the statistics showed was evident in adults across Essex - and also to poor diet.

Essex County Council has also identified tackling childhood obesity as a priority in its Local Area Agreement (LAA) and wanted to address the levels of exercise taken by children.

“It is doing things like getting children to walk to school, improving access to sport and working round opportunities offered by the Olympic Games in 2012, “ said Dr Gogarty.

He said the new system of weighing children in year one and year six of primary school and calculating their body mass index could also help the PCT to target schools where children had weight problems.

Dr Gogarty added that the PCT wanted to work with entire families and not just children on their own and as well as the free gym sessions scheme was also looking at families taking part in weight loss programmes together.

“A lot of interventions we are offering are targeting families and not just the children or the parents separately,” he said.

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