The government is seriously troubled about the state of the nation’s waistline and activity levels. This year alone it has published five papers aimed at tackling obesity and encouraging people to be more active.
It is not surprising. According to NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), a quarter of adults in England are now obese. Physical inactivity is the fourth largest cause of disease and disability in the UK and is responsible for 1 in 6 deaths in the UK. This makes it as dangerous as smoking according to Public Health England. Startlingly, the government’s olympic legacy document Moving more, living more, puts the direct and indirect cost of physical inactivity in the UK at £20 billion a year.
What to do? Well, the government wants more of us to be taking at least 2 hours of exercise every week. By doing this statistics show that we reduce our risk of a whole raft of medical conditions including diabetes, breast cancer, dementia, obesity and depression.
It is not just about prevention. Physical activity plays a key role in recovery too. Sit up and take note of what Sir Mike Richards, the former National Cancer Director (and current Chief Inspector of Hospitals), said in a Times interview last year. “Taking regular exercise after breast cancer is just about as effective as chemotherapy – it’s of that magnitude”.
You don’t need to groan at the thought of going to the gym. Instead, why not embrace the great outdoors? Cycling or walking is a far more sociable pursuit than sweating away on an exercise bike or treadmill in a windowless basement. It has other benefits too – great scenery and it’s a real mood booster.
Bristol is the perfect city for getting out and about. There are specially designed bike trails in Leigh Woods and Ashton Court, where you can hire a bike if you don’t have your own. You could even try one of the fastest growing outdoor leisure activities in Europe, Nordic walking. If you’ve not yet heard of it, it comes from our Scandinavian neighbours, when competitive cross-country skiers started using their poles to train during the summer. Nordic walking is an enhanced form of regular walking and uses two specially designed poles, slanted backwards, to help propel you forwards. It’s surprising how effective and enjoyable it is. If you’d like to give it a go, Bristol Nordic Walking ( runs classes in Ashton Court, on The Downs and in Blaise. There’s at least one walk every day, including evenings and weekends.
So don’t wait until the round of New Year resolutions. Commit to your health and get active now.

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