15 January 2014 saw a group of expert witnesses give evidence on the health benefits of physical activity and health consequences of physical inactivity, chaired by Barbara Keeley MP. The witnesses were: Dr William Bird MBE of Intelligent Health, Elaine McNish from Macmillan Cancer Support, Murray Dadswell from Flames – an initiative run by Loughborough University and the BHF – Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Hearth Foundation, Dr Charlie Foster, Councillors from the Local Government Association Tourism & Sport Board and Professor Kevin Fenton of Public Health England.
The witness panel were in agreement that physical activity has a significant, proven impact on both prevention of and recuperation from medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers, but that action must be taken to communicate this to the physically inactive. Discussion also centred on how healthcare groups and Government can promote types of physical activity that are not necessarily focused on sport. The importance of educating people from all backgrounds and communities on ways which they can move more, whatever their circumstances or current state of health was also highlighted.
The group concluded that with budget restrictions affecting many health groups and local authorities, the key is for different groups (be they involved in health, education, sport local government and beyond) to find ways of doing more with existing resources and making them more accessible.
On 30 October 2013 the Parliamentary Commission on Physical Activity heard evidence from a diverse group of witnesses on the subject on Transport and Urban Planning. The panel of Cross-Party MPs and Peers, chaired by Julian Huppert MP, heard views from charities and campaign groups Sustrans, Playing Out and Living Streets, academics Professor Sir Andy Haines and Professor Roger Mackett, Liverpool Active City and pupils and staff from Sunnydale Community College.
Issues discussed included ways to incorporate activity into children’s daily routines to enable them to reach the recommended target of 60 minutes of physical activity per day, along with some of the funding, facilities and infrastructure improvements needed to achieve this goal. Witnesses shared their experiences of existing schemes, helping the panel to understand what models and programmes currently exist, with analysis of what is working and what is not.
It was clear from the evidence shared that at the heart of improving levels of physical activity through transport and urban planning is grassroots engagement with children, parents and communities to create safe environments which enable people to get active.