Getting the country fit

Judith Wills / 02 April 2015

A recent Government report gets diet and wellbeing blogger Judith Wills wondering just what we can hope for from the Government when it comes to getting the nation fitter and more active.

A week or so ago, the House of Commons Health Committee published their report, “Impact of Physical Activity on Diet and Health”; a report that was commented on within the media who mostly picked up on a tiny bit of it which found, in essence, that lots of women don't exercise much because they're frightened of looking like idiots.

But to me, the interesting thing about the report is that it was/is probably almost a complete waste of everyone's time - the committee Chairman's time, the panel's time, and the time of the intended beneficiaries - us.

Usually I try not to pour cold water on enthusiastic people's work or schemes, but the ideas the Committee has for improving our activity levels are, all, just never going to happen.

One -  “We recommend that the next Government prioritises prevention, health promotion and early intervention to tackle the health inequalities and avoidable harm resulting from poor physical inactivity. Tackling these problems will require action at all levels and must be core business for the NHS and local authorities.”    

Ha! Where I live, we have two doctors serving 8,000 people; you can hardly get seen if you're at death's door, let alone if you want help with choosing the right exercise. There's no money for anything within the NHS, and many local authorities are so poor they're turning off the street lighting and cutting refuse collections by 75%,  so how can these grand recommendations be implemented?

Two - “Interventions include changes to the individual's local environment that may improve access to healthier foods...” could this mean widening the doors into the supermarket, or what? I'm baffled. There's healthy food almost everywhere already, if people want to buy it and can afford it. That said, food is probably as inexpensive now as it's going to get, so this is a great time to eat more veg or whatever.

Three - “ …or encourage active modes of transport such as walking or cycling.” Departments of Health have been spouting their intention to do just this for very very many years and despite previous initiatives, it just doesn't happen.  Encouraging websites and the occasional TV ad campaign just won't pass mustard.

All talk, no do. Money, big money would need to be spent on a proper network of cycle lanes, better paths, legislation to reduce the use of cars to once a week, and so on. As if.

Four - “Local authorities need more powers to limit the proliferation of outlets serving unhealthy foods in some areas.”  Ban the burger bar? Chuck the chippie and the Chinese? There would be a public outcry and the councils concerned, de-elected pronto.  If they could be bothered to implement this idea, which they won't be.

And so it goes on.

About the only part of this report that hits a chord with me is this criticism of the ailing National Health Service:

“The Committee regards it as inexplicable and unacceptable that the NHS is now spending more on bariatric surgery for obesity than on a national roll-out of intensive lifestyle intervention programmes that were first shown to cut obesity and prevent diabetes over a decade ago.”

They have a point here - if you're strapped for cash, don't waste the little you have. Not that people who have undergone bariatric surgery may agree with that. But the NHS and every Government we've had in many decades is very good at wasting our money, you must agree.

No, there's little point waiting for the Conservatives, or Labour, or the NHS, or more or less anyone in public service to help us to get fit and lose weight. It's up to us, folks - and it's unlikely to change.

Ate last night:

A plate of scallops. I love scallops as they are one of the few shellfish I can eat, and they are nice and meaty, low in saturates and calories and full of good healthy things like B vitamins and even a little omega-3. This time I just pan fried them in a brushing of olive oil for 30 seconds a side and served them with fresh chopped mild red chilli and garlic plus some lime juice. Very nice.

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