Physical Inactivity Is One Of Our Biggest Crises – Can We Make Physical Activity A National Religion?

What is it that we value most? It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. Is it our family? The home we share? The community we live and work in?

It seems that for many of us, these are all values that we hold dearly – and they can all be traced back to our health and wellbeing. Why then, is there so little policy focus on what contributes to the health and happiness of people, families and communities?

Somewhere along the way, politics has lost sight of the things that we value most. We must redress this and I believe exercise holds the key.

Physical inactivity is one of the biggest crises we face. Every day, parents, grandparents, wives and husbands are dying because they live in a society that doesn’t place enough emphasis on the importance of physical activity.

It’s time to bring policy back in line with our values, with our health and wellbeing. For many people, physical activity has become a national religion, something that we love and cherish, something that serves as the glue, holding communities together.

The miracle cure of physical activity has a major role to play in solving some of Britain’s biggest issues, such as our ageing population and social care crisis, the future of the NHS, childhood obesity, mental health, crime and economic productivity.

Today (1st November), the organisation that I Chair, ukactive, releases a new report on the impact of leisure facilities, showing they have a social value of £3.3bn to communities nationwide. The report, Physical activity: A social solution, highlights the significant impact that leisure facilities have on community health, as well as broader areas such as education, crime prevention, our mental health and happiness.

Leisure facilities are places that we turn to in times of light and dark. Places that provide solace, support and a chance of renewal.

When communities were rocked this summer by awful tragedies like the Manchester bombing and the fire at Grenfell Tower, it was in leisure centres – like Holmes Chapel, Swiss Cottage and Westway – where these communities gathered to make sense of the atrocities and provide charity to those who needed it most.

Far from being places to simply gym and swim, these centres are pillars of society, steadfastly supporting communities through thick and thin.

But many of these pillars are crumbling and are in need of urgent repair and renovation to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose, fit for those communities they serve.

Only by putting communities first can we bring policy back into line with our values. Today in Westminster, the ukactive National Summit will bring together 700 leaders from across government, health and physical activity to explore how exercise can help tackle society’s biggest challenges.

The conference will see keynotes on physical activity’s potential to unite communities from senior government figures such as Sports Minister Tracey Crouch, Disability Minister Penny Mordaunt and Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee.

Those in attendance represent glimmers of hope – people in power who understand our value to society. But the fact remains that politics as a whole fails to grasp this agenda and what wider society truly values. It’s like Westminster is sitting on the winning lottery ticket, but is too timid to claim the prize.

We’ve got to bring politics back into step with society – with what we need and what we value. Through cross-party commitment to getting more people, more active, more often, we can build a better, brighter, and bolder Britain which will be better equipped to face the challenges of the near future. In order to build a happier, healthier and wealthier nation, we must strive to make physical activity the natural choice for all aspects of life.