Page last updated at 08:24 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 09:24 UK

Britain 'must become more active'

Exercise is highly beneficial

There needs to be a sea-change in the approach of Britons to physical activity, the health secretary says.

Andy Burnham said the public needed to face up to the challenge of taking more exercise as research shows Britain is one of the least active in Europe.

To help achieve the goal, a host of partnerships have been set up with the private and public sector as well as TV stars to promote physical activity.

The programmes include everything from dancing to swimming.

Britain is 21st out of 32 European countries - behind the likes of Bulgaria and Latvia - in terms of the amount of physical activity which people regularly do, government research shows.

We are a sport-loving nation but we are simply nowhere near as active as we should be
Andy Burnham, health secretary

The recommended amount of exercise is one hour every day for children and 30 minutes at least five times a week for adults.

But a recent survey by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy found two thirds were failing to hit the target with a fifth saying they only exercised once a month or less.

Regular exercise means people are up to 50% less likely to be at risk of major chronic disease such as coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.


Mr Burnham said: "We are a sport-loving nation but we are simply nowhere near as active as we should be.

"Just as five years ago, we set ourselves the target of coming fourth in the 2012 Olympic medal table, now I want us to aspire to fourth place in the physical activity league over the next 10 years."

As part of the government's Change4Life public health drive, a number of initiatives are now being launched to help people become more active.

Sky has teamed up with British Cycling to organise a series of mass-participation cycling events across five major cities in the coming months.

A Dance Champions Group, featuring stars of the hit TV series Strictly Come Dancing including Arlene Phillips, who was recently dismissed as a judge on the show, has also been established to help support local clubs.

And a £1m pot of money has been set aside to help councils provide free swimming under the Swim4Life banner.

Mr Burnham added: "Promoting active lifestyles is the simple answer to many of the big challenges facing our country today."

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