Fitness drive by football clubs tackles obesity among younger men

An innovative health programme is harnessing the power of football to encourage young men to pay closer attention to their fitness.

Premier League Health (PLH) has been adopted by 16 present and former Premier League clubs in an attempt to reach out to over-18s.

The 1.6m of funding from the Football Foundation allows the clubs with PLH status to implement programmes designed to raise men's awareness and help them adopt healthier lifestyles.

A Premier League spokesman said: "An increasing proportion of young men are overweight or obese, leading to a significant risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and fat-related cancer, amongst other health problems. Smoking, excessive alcohol intake, low physical activity levels and other risk-taking are estimated to account for over 14 years of lost life.

"Currently there is limited provision for tackling the health needs in these vulnerable groups of men, specifically those in lower socio-economic environments."

Around 3,000 men took part in PLH programmes this year, with clubs setting up regular training sessions and healthy eating classes.

The Everton programme invited homeless men to take part in the initiative in the hope it would help them with other issues in their lives.

Ray Dermott, 27, from Liverpool, said: "I was homeless. I was in hostels but this helped me get re-settled. I've got a girl and I've just got a job. It's transformed my whole life."

Men's health professor Alan White, based at Leeds Metropolitan University, is overseeing the project. He said: "The problem with young men of this age is they tend to think they can eat what they want and do what they want and it has not got any impact on them."

But, he added, they were stacking up problems for themselves in later life.