The importance of being physically active

By on 12/10/2016 in Blog, News

Jacqui Kennedy, Acting Strategic Director for Place at Birmingham City Council, blogs on the range of wellbeing services the city offers, ahead of this weekend’s Great Birmingham Run event…

Jacqui Kennedy

Jacqui Kennedy – Acting Strategic Director for Place

The biggest single thing you can do to prevent dying early is to be physically active…..

The above statement is hard-hitting, but true – and it is something I pay attention to very closely.

If you are anything like me then you may be guilty of knowing about things, agreeing with them and believing them, but then giving yourself a constant hard time because you’re not doing them. It’s like that for me with the benefits of exercise.

I know it’s good for me, I’ve done the couch to 5k programme, a Race for Life, and because of knee problems I now do gentler exercise such as walking and swimming (10-mile walk in the Chilterns last weekend!), but I never quite make enough time in my life to do as much of it as I know I should…

I’ve no excuse really, because to add to that, within my remit with Birmingham City Council we deliver the wellbeing service.

In June 2015, we launched a new service with a new remit. The service is a collection of indoor and outdoor activities (most of them are free of charge) and they are aimed at getting us all more physically active and more mentally well.

Some of the facilities were formerly leisure centres, some community centres, activities go on regularly in local parks, and we are also closing streets and bringing them to where you live.

I didn’t know this until recently, but if you’re from a deprived area you are twice as likely to be inactive as if you are poor (PHE guidance 2016).

Roughly only one woman exercises for every three men. And for a lot of people just the word ‘exercise’ or the word ‘sport’ brings back horrid memories of school, PE, nasty changing rooms, and embarrassment.

So the impact of not being active doesn’t fall evenly on everyone and it’s really important that we are doing something about this as the implications for people as they age or become unwell can be significant.

We know that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to die early, and physical activity can help to tackle that.

Our wellbeing service is trying to tackle these issues by working to take away as many of the barriers to you and I being active as it can. It aims to highlight the benefits for you, me, and our friends and family by providing a wide range of fun, free activities, both indoors and outdoors.

Did you know for example, that you could have rowing and canoeing lessons for free on Edgbaston Reservoir as part of our Active Parks programme? Nope, nor me until recently. Click here for more information.

And did you also know that you and a group of your neighbours could regularly close your street and play games/have activities on it, and that we would help you do that, again all for free? Nope, nor me until I found out about our Active Streets programme. To find out more visit the Active Streets Facebook page.

You can go to a fitness class for free (I’m off to try Clubbercise – I’ve heard they even have glo-sticks for participants!), you can swim or go to the gym for free; there are led walks, you can join a beginners’ running group, or borrow a free bike and go on a led ride. (To be fair, I did know SOME of that )…

This video (just over ten minutes of your time) explains more about what the wellbeing service does:

It’s a great offer from the council, it really is and it makes me really proud. We want to have happy and active citizens. The council is trying to do its bit, it’s over to you and me to do ours… Now where did I put my leg warmers…


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