By Dr Sarah Wollaston MP – Chair of the Health & Social Care Committee
In our 2018 inquiry “Childhood Obesity: Time for Action”, the Health and Social Care Committee heard compelling evidence on the benefits to health and wellbeing that physical exercise can bring not just for children, but at all ages.
This is not just about tackling obesity but about the way physical activity brings huge health benefits in other areas too such as mental health and wellbeing regardless of a person’s weight.
This needs to be better communicated and policies in place to encourage and promote the benefits of getting and remaining active, including through active travel to school, college and work. In the UK, the HSC Committee was told that physical inactivity directly contributes to one in six deaths.
Children fare even worse than adults in meeting physical activity guidelines, and this situation seems to be worsening.
We were told very clearly in our most recent childhood obesity inquiry of the importance of physical exercise and activity to children’s mental and physical health, and recently published research from ukactive and BUCS supports this, showing that active students have higher wellbeing, inclusion and perceptions of employability compared to inactive students.
In a previous inquiry that the Committee conducted into the “Impact of physical activity and diet on health”, the Transport and Health Study Group put the positive argument for physical activity across perfectly:
“If physical activity were a drug then the range of its benefits on mental well being, mental illness, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and osteoporosis is such that no politician would dare withhold those benefits from the public.”
All of this helps to explain why schemes like National Fitness Day are so important. By offering such a huge range of activity options to participants of all ages and all levels of physical ability, National Fitness Day is a great opportunity to highlight the role physical activity plays across the UK, and how important it is to help us all lead healthier and active lives.