Government launches physical activity plan

In collaboration with the Press Association

The government has unveiled a new strategy to encourage people to do more exercise.

Promoting exercise is a key part of the government's Change4Life initiative, which was launched recently in a bid to help people lead healthier lives for longer.

Figures show that more than 27 million adults in England do not do enough exercise, with over half of these doing less than 30 minutes per week.

- Sara Hiom, director of health information, Cancer Research UK

This lack of exercise increases people's risk of a number of diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and a number of forms of cancer.

The government hopes to address this issue through its 'Be Active, Be Healthy' strategy, which proposes a range of activities in the community, including dancing, swimming and walking.

In particular, the government wants to see partnerships with private and voluntary organisations, such as free swimming lessons in conjunction with the Amateur Swimming Association and Sport England.

GPs will be asked to give patients brief advice on how to get fit and to prescribe physical activity in the same way that they prescribe drugs.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo commented: "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."

The minister said that communities must be given more support, encouragement and opportunities to get people active and create a "yes, you can" attitude.

She added that 'Be Active, Be Healthy' would form a "vital part" of the government's Change4Life campaign.

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK's director of health information, said: "Around half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. Maintaining a healthy bodyweight is one of the best ways to lower the risk of several types of cancer - potentially helping to avoid an estimated 13,000 cases each year.

"Cancer Research UK recommends that you try to take half an hour's physical activity a day, five days a week. This should be enough to leave you feeling warm and slightly out of breath and can include housework or walking briskly."