From smoker to runner thanks to Be Active

By on 14/10/2013 in Cllr Bedser, News

Cllr Steve Bedser Former 20-a-day smoker Cllr Steve Bedser will run his fifth half marathon of the year next weekend – thanks to Birmingham’s multi-award winning Be Active scheme.

Birmingham City Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing will take part in the Bupa Great Birmingham Run on October 20.

Cllr Bedser readily concedes that just two years ago running 13.1 miles would have been beyond him, thanks to his 30-year smoking habit.

Now he is urging others to make a life changing decision and get physically Active with the free Be Active scheme.

He said: “After smoking for 30 years and several unsuccessful attempts to quit, I finally gave up in 2011 and, worried about putting on weight, I decided to start swimming through Be Active.

“The years of smoking had taken their toll and I wasn’t what you would call in peak condition. Now I swim, cycle and run and I really have never felt better.

“Be Active played a major role in helping me adopt a healthier lifestyle. Because the swimming was free I was encouraged to persevere and I’m glad I did.”

As he runs his second Bupa Great Birmingham Run, Cllr Bedser will raise funds for the Silver Star Appeal – a national charity raising diabetes awareness among south Asian communities.

Silver Star runs a Mobile Diabetes Assessment Unit, which travels the country offering free diabetes tests – measuring weight, height, waist and glucose levels.

And Cllr Bedser is keen to promote awareness of a condition that can be managed and even prevented if people make healthy lifestyle changes.

He added: “People should not underestimate the seriousness of diabetes. Left untreated, the condition can lead to heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and blindness.

“And yet Type 2 diabetes can be prevented if people make lifestyle changes. The best opportunity to reduce diabetes rates in Birmingham lies in identifying those adults likely to develop diabetes within the next few years and support them to lose weight through programmes like Be Active.

“This is one of the major reasons why we are putting so much emphasis on the prevention of obesity in Birmingham. We need to counter the myth that diabetes is inevitable. Raising awareness is vital, particularly in south Asian communities.”

Photographs of Cllr Bedser can be downloaded here:

Be Active Background

Be Active is a city-wide scheme, designed to help everyone increase their physical activity for free. With such a wide range of activities to choose from there is something for everyone at every leisure centre across the city, to help you lose weight, reduce the risk of illness and even boost your confidence.

Be Active is available to anyone who lives in a property eligible for council tax in Birmingham. You will need to take two forms of identification with you to your local leisure facility when you join Be Active. All you need to access Be Active is a Leisure Card which can be accessed from your local leisure centre.

The scheme was initially called Gym for Free and was launched in February 2008 in the Ladywood Constituency to 100,000 residents as a joint initiative between NHS Heart of Birmingham tPCT and Birmingham City Council.

Gym for Free offered free swimming, fitness classes, and gym sessions to all of the residents of the constituency as long as they exercised at least 4 times per month. There was no upper limit to the number of times they could attend exercise sessions and the only other criteria was residency within the constituency.

Initially there were only 95 people across Ladywood regularly exercising on the local authorities direct debit scheme (the closest benchmark). Within 6 months there were 7,000 people on the Gym For Free scheme. Demand was through the roof and people were queuing for up to 2 hours to access sessions.

By November 2008 the scheme was rolled out to the rest of the Heart of Birmingham PCT area, some 300,000 people.

The scheme continued to prove successful and won a number of awards for tackling health inequalities and also social marketing.


  • 60% on scheme from the Black and Minority Ethnic communities. Traditionally hard to reach groups, such as Bangladeshi and Pakistani women, are over-represented.
  • Average age of people in the gyms on the scheme is 49 but in the private gyms is 29.

In those signing up to the scheme:

  • 50% overweight or obese.
  • 50% had raised blood pressure.
  • 25% smoke.
  • 20% said health poor or very poor.
  • 20% suffered extreme/moderate anxiety and depression.
  • This means that those communities with the biggest health gain to make are the ones using the scheme the most.
  • 74.3% of users were not previously a member of a leisure centre, gym, or swimming pool before joining.

Tags: , , ,


If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.