Be Active tackling Birmingham obesity

By on 14/12/2010 in News


A groundbreaking Birmingham City Council backed project is tackling the Midlands obesity problem head on.

And, as figures released today by the Association of Public Health Observatories reveal the West Midlands has the highest percentage of obese adults in the UK, the team behind Be Active insist they are starting to win the battle in Birmingham.

Launched in September 2009, the Be Active scheme offers all Birmingham residents* free swimming, group exercise classes and gym sessions.

Be active is sponsored by the Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Partnership, made up of Birmingham City Council and the three Birmingham NHS primary care trusts – Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust, NHS South Birmingham and NHS Birmingham East and North. It also supports the national 'Change 4 Life' programme.

With over 300,000 people now registered for the scheme and exercising regularly, the team insist Be Active is helping Birmingham combat obesity.

Cllr Alan Rudge, Cabinet Member for Equalities and Human Resources said: “The national headlines today show obesity is a problem across the UK and particularly in the West Midlands. Through the Be Active scheme we're working hard with our partners in the NHS to combat that problem in Birmingham.

“The results speak for themselves. The Be Active scheme has proved to be a huge success in Birmingham and we want to encourage more people to make the most of this provision.

“Together with the three Birmingham NHS primary care trusts, we want to encourage people to be active for about half an hour at least five times a week.

“Whether you're walking, cycling or going to the local leisure centre to swim or use the gym - it all counts when it comes to protecting your heart, your joints and keeping your weight down.”

  • Over 300,000 people now registered on the scheme and exercising regularly (on average three times per month on the scheme alone)
  • 60% of the participants from BME communities
  • 50/50 men and women
  • The Demographics of the scheme show that those joining the scheme are from groups with the highest health gains to make

A recent evaluation of the scheme shows that:

  • At joining 50% were obese
  • 50% had high blood pressure
  • 20% said they had poor health
  • 74% had previously NEVER been a member of a leisure centre or gym before
  • 84% said losing weight and getting fitter was their key motivation to join the scheme
  • 40% claimed that cost was a barrier that had prevented them exercising before

Leisure Centre staff have also received additional nutritional training so they can give basic advice to customers about healthy diet.


Notes to Editors

Video Case Study

Roselyn Mighty from Nechells weighed 23 stone when she signed up to the Be Active scheme.

She said: “I was very heavy, very lazy. Didn’t do much at home except eat, drink, sleep and watch TV. That’s all I did. Joining the scheme has made me healthier. I’ve lost quite a bit of weight and I’m happier within myself. I lost over eight stone and that’s thanks to being on the Be Active Scheme.”

Roselyn is available for interview.

Case Study

Patricia Dube from Shard End is one of thousands of people across Birmingham who has saved hundreds of pounds as she lost pounds of weight over the last twelve months with the increasingly popular 'Be active' scheme.

In the current credit crunch climate, Be Active offers a solution for both the pocket and the pecs, with a variety of choice on offer ranging from free gym use, aerobic classes, walking groups and free swimming at all council leisure centres across the city. Patricia has saved at least £400* through the Be Active scheme AND can visit her leisure centre as many times a week as she wishes.

At 51, Patricia never imagined she would enjoy exercise. She was overweight and got tired from just walking down the road, but since seeing an advert for the Be active scheme last December, she is now a regular visitor at her local gym in Shard End.

“I was going past Shard End Leisure Centre on the bus when I saw the poster that advertised 'free leisure'” says Patricia. “I was a bit reluctant at first as I hadn't done any exercise for ages and I suffer from high blood pressure, but I decided to go in the leisure centre to find out more. After getting the all clear from my doctor, I booked a gym induction and I've never looked back.”

Patricia now goes to the gym every weekday for one hour and has already lost over a stone and dropped several dress sizes.

“It wasn't easy in the beginning but I persevered and it has become easier every time. Now it's really enjoyable. I would advise anyone to go to their gym because it's free and it need only be an hour out of your day. It makes you feel you are getting your life back. You don't feel so tired and you feel so much healthier.”

Click on the following link for more information:

Be active has won the following awards:

  • LGC Health and Wellbeing Award 2009
  • AHC Social Marketing Award 2009
  • AHC Overall Award For Best Social Marketing 2009
  • The Guardian Health Inequalities Award 2009
  • The Guardian Overall Winner Award 2009
  • Health Service Journal Best Social Marketing Award 2009
  • Health Service Journal Secretary Of State Award For Excellence In Healthcare Management 2009
  • LGC Reputation Award for Social Marketing 2010
  • Be active has also been highly commended at the following awards:
  • Community partnerships award 2010 Healthy communities
  • Municipal Journal 2010 Health Inequalities

Be active is supported by the Birmingham Health and Wellbeing Partnership, made up of Birmingham City Council and the three Birmingham NHS primary care trusts – Heart of Birmingham teaching Primary Care Trust, NHS South Birmingham and NHS Birmingham East and North. It also compliments the national 'Change 4 Life' programme. The Be active scheme is part funded by Be Birmingham's Working Neighbourhoods Fund, which aims to get people to change their lifestyle, whilst improving their health.

Six Be active aims

  1. Increase the number of people who regularly take part in active recreation and sport – Move from 17% to 20% of the adult population (an additional 23,000 people) being active at least five times a week
  2. Improve the mental and physical health of those who take part in physical activity
  3. Promote healthy eating and enable more people to maintain a normal body weight
  4. Reduce early death and disability from chronic diseases by promoting physical activity and improving cardiovascular fitness among those who experience the most inequality in health
  5. Provide opportunities for employment, volunteering and youth inclusion
  6. Demonstrate effective partnership working to achieve better outcomes

*Be active is a free scheme available to all Birmingham residents who pay their council tax to Birmingham City Council. Be active participants can take part in swimming at any time, and free exercise classes or the gym at any council-run leisure facility Monday to Friday before 5pm and weekends after 1pm. Please contact your local leisure facility for more information.

For further information contact Geoff Coleman on 0121 303 3501

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There Are 4 Brilliant Comments

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  1. John says:

    What on earth does this have to do with Alan Rudge?

    Since when did his portfolio include matters of public health and leisure?

    • geoffc says:


      One of the targets for the Be Active project is to increase sports participation among BME communities and Cllr Rudge has been closely associated with the project, promoting it as part of his role as Cabinet Member for Equalities.

      This project has been a real team effort, with Leader of the council Cllr Mike Whitby and Cllr Martin Mullaney (Leisure, Sport and Culture) also giving their support.

  2. Kat says:

    I hear that Birmingham City Councl will not be funding the Be Active programme after March 31st 2011!

    • geoffc says:

      No decisions have yet been made about funding and the organisers remain hopeful this hugely successful scheme will continue.