New UK government strategy focuses on broad range of wellness initiatives
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New UK government strategy focuses on broad range of wellness initiatives

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A new UK government strategy is targeting wellness in children as young as five, investing public money in programmes that encourage physical activity among the inactive and earmarking funds for initiatives that tackles social exclusion and mental health problems.

The government’s sport strategy – the first in over a decade – was released yesterday (17 December), and deals with a broad reach of wellness initiatives, going far beyond the traditional idea of sports.

Activities such as cycling, dancing and walking are due to be measured under the new framework, which forms part of a move to eradicate the distinction between sport and broader physical activity, described by the Strategy as “unhelpful, outdated and irrelevant.”

“The UK is fortunate to have some of the best countryside and outdoor space in the world, where people can take part in a wide variety of activities, many of which have not necessarily been supported as much as other more traditional sports,” the report said.

“This needs to change if we are to provide a variety of different opportunities to engage in sport and physical activity that meets the demand from the customer, rather than telling them what type of activity we think they should be doing.”

The report looks at offering people ways to be physically active that they enjoy, at times and places that suit them. Getting people more active in whatever way they can is a necessity, the report said, in the face of an ageing population, rising obesity and an increase in conditions such as diabetes.

“Sport is just one way of getting people active,” it said. “Many people love sport and get huge enjoyment from it, but others prefer less competitive activities like recreational walking. Whatever preferences people may have, the important goal is to help more people to get active.”

Sports governing bodies will have to demonstrate projects that have a “meaningful, measurable impact” on improving people’s lives in order to receive funding.

The sport strategy is targeting five outcomes that each sports organisation, public or private sector, will be measured against: physical wellbeing; mental wellbeing; individual development; social and community development; economic development.

Government funding will go toward organisations that can “best demonstrate that they will deliver some or all of the five outcomes.”

Geographic areas identified as “physically inactive” will be able to bid for resources from Sport England – the public body that distributes funding on behalf of the government and works to increase sports participation – to develop and implement physical activity strategies. Sport England will set out how it plans to deliver the strategy in 2016.

Specific funding will be set aside to tackle physical inactivity, and Sport England has a new brief to invest in physical activity for those aged five and over, as opposed to its previous obligation of improving participation among those aged 14+.

“Developing the ABCs of physical literacy – agility, balance and co-ordination – is more important and should be the focus at the youngest ages,” the report said.

The governing body will also set up a fund in 2016 which will specifically measure and work to increase participation rates among physically inactive people. Demographic groups that generally have low participation rates – including women, disabled people, those from lower socioeconomic groups and the elderly – will be targeted with financial backing.

“The impact that sport has on physical and mental health, from dementia-friendly swimming sessions to Street League for unemployed youngsters, alongside sport and physical activity more broadly, shows the power to transform people’s wellbeing and create a fitter, healthier and happier nation,” said Tracey Crouch MP, minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, in delivering the report.

“This has never been more important, when we are battling with growing levels of obesity and diabetes, mental health problems and other conditions associated with inactivity that cost the nation £7.4bn each year.”

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A new UK government strategy is targeting wellness in children as young as five, investing public money in programmes that encourage physical activity among the inactive and earmarking funds for initiatives that tackles social exclusion and mental health problems.
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