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A new call to action

05 Jan 2015
by Kate Cracknell, editor-at-large, Health Club Management
It’s about changing attitudes so physical activity becomes the expectation, the new social norm – professor Kevin Fenton

Young or old, disabled or able-bodied, fit or unfit, the brief is clear: we should all be active on a daily basis. This is the unambiguous and very welcome message from Public Health England (PHE) in Everybody Active, Every Day – its recently published national framework designed to combat inactivity. Hear, hear PHE. In their bold simplicity, the four words ‘everybody active, every day’ become more than just the name of the framework – they become a rallying cry for the fitness sector as a whole.

“This is the largest and most significant piece of work on physical activity done by PHE since its inception in 2013. It’s a great indication that physical activity is starting to climb its way to becoming a top tier public health issue,” comments ukactive CEO David Stalker.

It’s the simplicity of the message that’s particularly refreshing: activity has to happen every day. That’s infinitely easier to grasp than x number of minutes on y number of days a week. It’s also more compelling – less about guilt-tripping people if they’re not doing the minimum, more about inspiring them to do something, and to do it today rather than putting it off until tomorrow.

As PHE’s Kevin Fenton explained at the recent ukactive Summit, it’s about changing attitudes so physical activity becomes the expectation – the new social norm. That means implementing ‘active design’ principles in places where people live, so activity options are embedded into everyday lives. It means setting up exercise initiatives in the workplace, as The Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington urges on Health Club Management 2015 issue 1 page 32. And it means rolling out well-evidenced physical activity interventions on a national scale. All these are key prongs of the framework, which can be found at www.health-club.co.uk/phe

There’s huge scope for the fitness sector to play a role in all of this, but club operators need to recognise the important shift that ‘everybody active, every day’ represents. It can’t be just about gyms any more, as ukactive CEO Dave Stalker explains on Health Club Management 2015 issue 1 page 24: “As a sector, we’ll see an ongoing redefinition of who we are and what we stand for, driven by an understanding that physical health clubs, leisure centres and activity providers are now part of a wider ecosystem working to get the world fit and healthy.”

Other organisations have already embraced this ‘all activity is good’ agenda: Sport England’s ‘Get Healthy, Get Into Sport’ campaign has been rebranded ‘Get Healthy, Get Active’ and backed by £5m of funding.

Fitness must do the same. There are clear opportunities for fitness providers to latch on to the PHE agenda, including embracing partnership work in the community, developing links with corporates, and providing better evidence of the effectiveness of activity interventions.

If the sector is willing and able to embrace ‘everybody active, every day’ – focusing on getting people moving wherever they are, rather than concentrating exclusively on its own bricks and mortar facilities – it can play a huge role in turning the tide of inactivity.

Tags: Health Club Management  health & fitness  sport & recreation 

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