WE have a golden chance to bring about change in 2016 after the Government published its Strategy for an Active Nation – a blueprint focusing on getting inactive people to exercise rather than supporting those already playing sport.
The effective delivery of this strategy will be vital for our nation in order to tackle the growing inactivity and obesity crisis which threatens to cripple the UK’s productivity.
Since Team Activ was founded five years ago, my team and I have helped 75,000 children to become more active and we have been privileged to see the huge impact that regular exercise makes; not only to health and fitness, but also to confidence, resilience and positivity.
We have recently started working in the corporate world, supporting individuals and organisations to enhance employee wellbeing, engagement and business growth. Here are my priorities for 2016.
1. We need to work relentlessly to instil lifelong healthy and active habits and I’m delighted that funding is going to be focused on getting very young children into activity and sport.
We work with young children, often from the age of five, and it’s vital we get children interested in leading active lives. Funding via the new strategy is also going to be targeted at women, people with disabilities, older generations and those in lower socio-economic groups. Team Activ works across Yorkshire and is particularly engaged in former coalfield areas which have high levels of poverty, obesity and ill health and we see the many benefits that active lifestyles bring.
2. We need to change our habits at work. We are far too sedentary as a nation. Around 80 per cent of jobs are now classed as sedentary compared to 50 per cent in 1960. Being tied to our desks is a health issue and we need to resolve to change things in 2016.
Can we take the stairs instead of the lift? Can we walk to see a colleague instead of emailing? Can we set up an after-work football league or a lunchtime running club? Small changes add up.
3. A key priority for Team Activ will be working with even more communities and businesses. Just 56 per cent of adults are active for the recommended 150 minutes a week and that’s a health time-bomb. We’ll be introducing a whole programme of community events like family orienteering and themed fun days to ge families active together.
We’re working with businesses including PwC, Rolls-Royce and Goldman Sachs to deliver activities in the workplace and help employees stay fit and think smarter.
4. We need to tackle the obesity time bomb and continue to campaign for a reduction in sugar in our food. Obesity really is a national threat and one doctor recently said it held the same national threat as terrorism. It saddens me greatly to see that 20 per cent of children starting Reception class in Barnsley are overweight or obese.
In Year 6 when they’re getting ready to start secondary school, the figure rises to 31 per cent. In disadvantaged parts of the UK, poorer children are three times more likely to be obese. Lack of exercise and poor diet is to blame. Team Activ is doing everything within its power to get children active but we’re fighting a very difficult battle whilst ever our food is packed with sugar, hidden or not.
5. The Government plans to invest more than £1bn in taxpayers’ and Lottery money over the next five years and we need to ensure that this cash is spent wisely and carefully managed.
I’d like to see much tighter regulation around the increasing number of unregulated “sports” coaches working in our schools. The government’s PE and Sport Premium is a funding initiative which ploughs £150m per year into improving the quality and breadth of PE and sport provision. But ever since schools were given this money, more and more external sports coaches have appeared hoping for a slice of the pie.
I’ve heard of schools stopping using these coaches because of poor teaching skills or because they couldn’t manage the children.
In November the Department of Education published the findings of a study which highlighted how unregulated coaches are targeting schools with money to spend. The report said: “As soon as it’s announced in the Press that schools are receiving extra funding for sport, ‘white van man’ appears with a bag of balls.”
This is unacceptable and is putting our children’s health, safety and education at risk.
Darren Padgett is the founder of Barnsley-based Team Activ, an award-winning social enterprise inspiring children, communities and businesses to lead active, healthier lives.