Companies should bring back their own sports clubs to help tackle the nation’s “inactivity epidemic”, a Bradford MP says.
Gerry Sutcliffe has joined forces with Paralympic legend Tanni Grey-Thompson to draw up a strategy to persuade people to do more exercise.
The report, presented to Prime Minister David Cameron, highlights that more than half of all adults fail to do the minimum amount of exercise recommended by experts.
And it warns up to 37,000 lives are lost prematurely every year – because Britons have become 24 per cent less active over the past 50 years.
Mr Sutcliffe, the Labour MP for Bradford South, a former sports minister, said reversing that worrying trend was a matter for society – not just for the Government.
And he pointed to the declining tradition of companies encouraging their own workers to stay fit and active, to the cost of those firms themselves.
Such firms included Fields Packaging – where Mr Sutcliffe worked – as well as Hepworth and Grandage, International Harvesters and the English Electric Company.
Mr Sutcliffe said: “I can remember when big companies had their own football clubs and sports clubs – they saw it as part of the package they offered to their workers.
“The country’s been through a number of recessions and that’s no longer the case, yet the evidence shows that a healthy workforce is a more productive one.
“The Government has a role to play in making people more active, but this is also about society – about local councils and the health service, as well as private companies.”
A typical worker spends five hours and 41 minutes every day simply sitting at their desk, the inquiry found.
The report, by the All Party Commission on Physical Activity, also calls for: l more transport cash to be spent on walking and cycling – and less on road-building l more “street play areas”, where neighbours can gather and be active together – pioneered in Bristol l ‘breakfast fitness clubs’ and activity breaks in schools – as well as efforts to encourage youngsters to walk, or cycle, to school l a proper way of measuring physical activity – warning it was “almost impossible” to judge which initiatives were successful.
Mr Sutcliffe said a project in Bradford was already tracking the health of 10,000 people in the city from birth, adding: “It should be easy to track physical activity.”
And, asked about his own exercise regime, the 60-year-old said: “I walk to work every day, which takes about 15 minutes, and I still play five-a-side football most weeks.
“I also use the stairs, rather than a lift, when I can. I could do more but – as I approach my 61st birthday – I don’t think I’m doing too badly.”