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Focus on obesity has eaten away at the debate on UK physical inactivity, says ukactive chairman.

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Focus on obesity has eaten away at the debate on UK physical inactivity, says ukactive chairman. back to list

24 October 2013

Fred Turok, ukactive chairman, criticises the national obsession on obesity at a conference in London saying exercise is the key way to make health gains.

Speaking at an event arranged by Coca Cola on the 24th October Turok, who is also Chairman of the national gym chain LA Fitness, said that the arguments around calorie reduction for weight management obscure a wider and more important debate about improving health and wellbeing.

Turok suggests that the unintended consequences of this include the stigmatisation of young people as a result of their body shape, which can lead to bulimia, anorexia and other disorders.

The "Together We Move" conference has been coordinated by Coca Cola to bring together professionals from around the world to discuss ways of getting people more active. Coca-Cola is playing an increasingly active role in this debate as part of its own plans to address criticism that its products contribute towards the global obesity epidemic.

Turok used his keynote speech as a plea to the international delegates to move the debate away from our obsession on obesity alone and rather independently focus on tackling levels of physical inactivity in its own right.

He drew attention to the health gains of a person doing more exercise including reducing the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke irrespective of their weight.

Turok made it clear that this currently unbalanced debate is making it impossible for the nation to have an informed conversation on how to lead a healthy life and has created too much focus on body image rather than improving health and wellbeing.

The intervention comes at a time when the benefits of exercise are once again in the spotlight.

Physical inactivity has been dubbed a 'silent killer' responsible for more deaths than smoking and now one of the top four killers worldwide according to the World Health Organisation.

Recent British Medical Journal research involving 340,000 patients found that only a third of people in England do the recommended levels of activity every week - despite it being found that moderate-intensity exercise can reduce the risk of major illnesses by up to 50 per cent.

The ukactive Chairman said that if everyone in England alone carried out the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise every week it would save 37,000 lives each year.

Moreover it would lead to nearly 300,000 fewer cases of type 2 diabetes and prevent over 12,000 people going to hospital for emergency coronary heart disease treatment.

Turok also gave examples of how the growing trend of physical inactivity can be tackled. He informed the conference that ukactive, the  umbrella body for the health benefits of physical activity in the United Kingdom, have successfully engaged people in their local communities to become more active with their Let's Get Moving programme which puts an exercise profession directly into a GP surgery.

Their work in Essex, Luton and Bedfordshire provided services to reduce physical inactivity in their local area in a targeted way that tackles the health inequalities that they face.

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