Come on Birmingham: Let’s get physical

By on 30/06/2015 in Blog, Cllr Hamilton

Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care, Cllr Paulette Hamilton makes the case for Brummies to be more physically active.

My new role as Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care covers a wide range of areas and, as I’m sure you’ll appreciate, I’ve spent the last few weeks familiarizing myself with an exciting and vitally important portfolio.

I’ve already met lots of people focused on ensuring we live healthier, happier lives – from birth right through to what we all hope will be a ripe old age.

One topic that has come up time and again in my conversations with people across the city is the importance for more Brummies to be more physically active.

We’re certainly moving in the right direction as we saw with the Active People Survey earlier this year but it’s clear that we still have a long way to go and far too many people in Birmingham are simply not active enough.

So, over the next 12 months I plan to regularly blog on the things we’re doing as a city to be more physically active. Sometimes I’ll look at council initiatives but I also want to shine a light on the brilliant work done by individuals and community organisations.

In this blog though, I think it’s important to set the scene and explain why I’m keen to focus on this topic.

I think it’s vital not to confuse the need for people to be more physically active with that other ongoing battle against obesity. Having an active lifestyle is about so much more than simply maintaining a healthy weight.

Exercise can reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer by up to 50 per cent. It can lower your risk of early death by up to 30 per cent, while research shows that physical activity can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing your risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

It has been labelled ‘a miracle cure’ by some health professionals and the benefits aren’t restricted to your physical health. My first blog as Cabinet Member focused on the importance of mental health and physical activity can certainly play an important role in the mental wellbeing of an individual and indeed of a whole city.

Now pointing out the physical and mental health benefits of regular physical activity doesn’t exactly make me a visionary does it? But there are other – perhaps less obvious – benefits.

A report only this month from the University of California stated that increasing amount of green space and promoting walking, cycling and use of public transport has significant economic benefits.

The report further stated that cities in which residents are physically active have a big advantage over their more sedentary rivals, with better economic productivity, higher property values and improved school performance, as well as a healthier population.

This moves us onto a whole new level and I believe we have some great examples of where Birmingham is moving from sedentary to active.

With around 600 parks and open spaces we’re lucky enough to live in one of Europe’s greenest cities.

And through our Active Parks scheme and ParkLives (more on these initiatives in a future blog) we’ve developed a wide range of outdoor activities, with something to suit everyone.

As everyone goes tennis mad for Wimbledon fortnight, you can even play tennis for FREE every weekend at Ward End Park, Aston Park, Calthorpe Park and Cannon Hill Park.

Then there’s the welcome recent focus on cycling with the Birmingham Cycling Revolution and the brilliant Big Birmingham Bikes giveaway.

As you can see, there are lots of ways we can all be more physically active and I would urge you all to make the most of the initiatives on offer. Failing that, just go for a walk in one of our beautiful parks or along your nearest canal.

So, thank you for reading this. Now please switch attention from your computer/tablet/phone and go for a walk, a run or a bike ride. I promise you’ll feel better for it and the benefits will grow the more often you’re physically active.

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