Birmingham's health champion has said he’s happy for people to be fat – as long as they get some exercise.
Dr Ewan Hamnett has been appointed by the Health and Wellbeing Board to be Birmingham’s new Champion for Tackling Physical Inactivity.
Only 31.7 per cent of people in Birmingham participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity sport each week, compared to the national average of 34.7 per cent.
The appointment coincides with a warning from MPs that lack of exercise is creating “a tsunami of premature deaths”.
It was revealed how 17 per cent of premature deaths from conditions like diabetes, stroke and heart disease can be linked to inactivity.
Dr Hamnett’s voluntary role will see him acting as liaison between Birmingham City Council and health organisations across the city. He is there to challenge and help shape future approaches to physical activity. He also believes that exercising more could impact on crime and teenage pregnancy.
Dr Hamnett said: “I believe that activity is where it’s at. Everybody gets very hung-up on fat people but actually the evidence for activity is much stronger.
“You’re better to be a bit overweight and active than thin and inactive, in terms of lots of health statistics.
“So, as I see it, the purpose of my role is to cut down the barriers to everybody in Birmingham being able to be active, because activity will not only solve a lot of health problems but it will also solve a lot of social problems. It will make people happier.
“It will be hard to measure, but I would hope there will be an impact on things like criminal justice, housing, teenage pregnancy, you name it.
“We’ve got to remember that people make choices. You can’t tell anybody to be active, you just have to make the environment conducive to activity.
“We’re not suddenly going to have a city where everybody is exercising madly, it’s going to happen over time. What we’re looking to do with things like biking is to get a critical mass up.
“Once you’ve got a critical mass and people stop thinking it’s weird seeing a cyclist on the road amongst all those cars, once it’s weird to see a car on the road in amongst all those bikes, then we’ve achieved something.
“Cycling’s not where it’s going to be for many people. We’re talking walking, other activities, the Active Parks scheme, all sorts of stuff. It’s about connecting all these strands.”
Birmingham Director of Public Health, Dr Adrian Phillips, said: “There’s clear evidence that if we make families active, their children will also become active.
“There’s also strong evidence around older people remaining independent through physical activity. Activity plays a really important role in falls prevention and can also reduce dependence in dementia.”
Dr Gavin Ralston, Chair of Birmingham CrossCity CCG, said: “If anybody can get Birmingham more active, that person is Ewan. He has such great enthusiasm for this particular subject.”
All-party parliamentary group co-chair Nick de Bois, said: “As adults and our children are increasingly choosing to live sedentary lives, we are facing a tsunami of premature deaths in England.
“And, with the news that our children are now being diagnosed with long-term conditions as a consequence of unhealthy lifestyle choices, there is an urgent need to improve people’s physical literacy. To ensure our population enjoy good lifelong physical health and mental wellbeing. The cost of inactivity to individual’s lives is clearly too high. In addition, we cannot ignore the cost to the NHS in England which is almost £10 billion.”
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