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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 April, 2004, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
MPs fighting the flab for fitness
by Emma Carson
BBC News Online, Nottingham

The government says it is taking its responsibility for the nation's waistline seriously as doctors warn of an obesity time bomb.

But with their busy timetables are politicians already practicing what the government is preaching?

BBC News Online's Emma Carson has talked to a cross section of MPs about their personal fitness regimes.

Gillian Merron

I try to keep fit and healthy, which is often difficult as an MP. I ran again in the Lincoln 10k on 4 April, and I ran the Flora Light Women's 5k in September. I am also captain of the Women's House of Commons Tug of war team.

I have joined the Parliamentary Weight Watchers Group and recently featured in Weight Watchers magazine. That aimed to show that if we can do it, then anyone can . The temptation is for the life of an MP to be unhealthy, so I feel it is important, particularly for children, to see politicians promoting a healthy way of life.

Harry Barnes

I was parliamentary Slimmer of the Year a couple of years ago.

I had put on quite a bit of weight over the years, but it was the shock of having a stroke six years ago which made me look round as to what I should be doing.

I'm Secretary of the All Party Stroke Group. The Stroke Association points out healthy eating is important. Now I take a small aspirin each day to thin my blood. I don't particularly exercise a massive amount but there are miles of corridors in the Commons.

Vernon Coaker

As co-chair of the all party obesity group I felt I should practice what I preach.

I do a lot of informal-type walking to maintain good health rather than being a formal participant in a gym or anything like that. I actually used to play loads of sport, and PE was one of my subjects when I was a teacher.

But when I became an MP some of that stopped. It's taken the crisis of obesity and related illnesses to shock us into action. The trouble now is how far can you change people's behaviour without being accused of being the nanny state?

Alan Simpson

Politicians have a self interest in addressing the health issue - we're one of the classic groups in society needing to re-engage with that agenda of a health lifestyle.

It's a 'physician treat thyself' message. I cycle in to parliament and back home at night to my London flat. I've always declined offers to move my office into the main building, because it's really helpful to have significant treks back and forth. It forces you out of a sedentary lifestyle.

I'm the Tennis Advisor for the Ministry of Sports and I play for the parliamentary tennis team. I make no apologies for having time out of the parliamentary timetable to play sport because it's very easy to find yourself publicly owned from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to sleep.

Ben Bradshaw

I was chairman of the back bench all-party cycling campaign until 2000, when I became a parliamentary private secretary. Since becoming an MP cycling has been my only form of exercise because unlike going to the gym or going swimming you can build it into your everyday activity.

I clock up thousands of miles a year in my constituency and in London. It's very therapeutic, I think on my bike and it keeps me trim and fit. I claim a cycling allowance - it's 7p a mile.

I think most MPs are probably conscious of fitness because it's a demanding and stressful job - but it's also difficult to fit in to the long and antisocial hours we work. Obesity does not only impact on just that person, but also places an extra burden on the NHS and the general tax payer.

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