Active city

City fitness strategy launched

A blueprint to get every person in Liverpool fit and healthy is being launched this week.

On Thursday (22 November) the Be Active: Be Healthy: Creating a moving culture strategy will be launched which outlines the city’s commitment to promoting active lifestyles and aims to improve the health of everyone in the city, regardless of age or ability.

Although the report shows there has been an increase in residents taking up exercise in recent years, statistics reveal that in Liverpool:

• Approximately 80,000 adults and 13,000 children are obese, with direct costs to Liverpool NHS of around £5million per year
• Only 21 per cent of adults are active enough to benefit their health
• Only 1-in-3 boys and 1-in-5 girls aged 9-11 are involved in physical activity for one hour a day
• If current trends continue, it’s predicted that by 2020 nearly one third of residents will be overweight
• Since 2005, smoking in the city has reduced from 35 to 27 per cent

The strategy, which runs from 2012 to 2017, addresses these issues with recommendations on how much exercise different age groups should undertake each week, outlines some of the various organised exercise activities which take place regularly in the city and also highlights affordable ways of keeping fit including the use of green spaces in the city and making small lifestyle changes such as taking the stairs where usually someone would use a lift or escalator.

Its main aim is to increase participation in physical activity by two per cent each year which will be measured throughout the process by the independent Active People Survey.

Assistant Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Councillor Helen Casstles, will attend Thursday’s launch along with Everton Football Club midfielder Steven Naismith, Paralympian David Devine who secured two bronze medals in the 800m and 1500m races at this year’s Games and Taekwondo Middleweight Champion of the World Jimmy McGinn. Councillor Casstles said: “The main aim of this strategy is to ensure each Liverpool resident has the opportunity to be physically active every day of their lives.

“We want exercise to become part of everyone’s routine – even though the city has made great strides over recent years with more people getting active, the figures around obesity remain shocking.

“Hopefully with such a sporting line-up to launch the strategy we will encourage people to think seriously about the health implications surrounding being inactive and inspire them to get fit.”

Be Active: Be Healthy has been devised by the city council in partnership with Liverpool Primary Care Trust (PCT).

Chair of Liverpool PCT, Gideon Ben-Tovim, said: “Being unhealthy and overweight can lead to so many conditions such as heart disease, strokes and even cancer, it’s essential we do as much as we can to promote a more active lifestyle.

“This document cements our commitment to improving the quality of life for residents and we hope that thousands more people will be inspired to get fit and have a healthy start to 2013.”

The new report outlines how much exercise is recommended for various age groups:

Early years (0-4years) – From birth, floor based play and water-based activities should be adopted, and when a child can walk unaided they should be active for at least three hours spread out throughout each day.

Children and young people (5-18years) – This group should engage in moderate to vigorous activity (which includes running, ball games or gymnastics) for at least an hour each day which will improve bone health, muscle strength and flexibility.

Adults (19-64years) – It’s advised that adults should exercise for at least 150minutes (2.5hours) a week. This should be exercise that increases the heart rate, including walking, cycling, football, gardening and even housework.

Older adults (65+) – Again, older adults are advised to be active for around 150 minutes a week, but focus on exercise which strengthens muscles at least twice a week, and those at risk of falls should focus on improving balance and co-ordination.

It also details the different activities available for all the age groups which include the Futures Programme which offers free access to Lifestyles Leisure Centres for young people up to the age of 17. This incorporates free swimming and payment of just £1 per gym session. The number of young people joining the scheme has averaged around 1,000 per month with an increase of 57,000 visits to centres across the city.

The benefits of being active are outlined, such as improves self-esteem, widening social networks and it’s a great way to let off steam.

This latest strategy builds on the success of the Active City Strategy (2005-2010) which saw an increase in the level of physical activity in the city. Following the completion of this strategy, a survey carried out revealed:
• There was a 3 per cent increase in the number of residents who were sufficiently active between 2005 and 2011 – this was almost four times higher than the national change of 0.7 per cent
• There was a 5.2 per cent increase in the number of people taking up exercise in the City and North area

The Be Active: Be Healthy reflects on the success of its predecessor, focusing on successful initiatives launched during this period including Cycle for Health which began in 2005 with two venues and 86 people attending – this has now established into 23 venues with 636 participants who have completes a total of 4,990 rides. Walk for Health, launched in 2006 took place in 11 venues, involving 384 people. By 2011 the scheme was delivered across 34 venues with 2,111 people taking part in 11,305 walks.