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Make physical activity a ‘national religion’, urges Tanni Grey-Thompson

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Every day, parents, grandparents, wives and husbands are dying because they live in a society that doesn’t place enough emphasis on the importance of physical activity
– Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has called on the government to help make physical activity a ‘national religion’ and harness its potential to tackle some of the biggest challenges faced by society.

Speaking at the ukactive National Summit today (1 November) in London, Grey-Thompson said urgent action is needed to combat the mounting physical inactivity crisis, which costs £20bn each year and causes 37,000 deaths.

The crossbench peer, who won 11 Paralympic gold medals as a wheelchair athlete, described physical activity as society’s ‘golden thread’ and outlined the impact it can have on issues such as Britain’s ageing population and social care crisis, the future of the NHS, childhood obesity, mental health, crime and economic productivity.

“Physical inactivity is one of the biggest crises we face,” said Grey-Thompson, who is chair of the non-profit health body ukactive. “Every day, parents, grandparents, wives and husbands are dying because they live in a society that doesn’t place enough emphasis on the importance of physical activity.

“For many, physical activity is becoming a national religion – something we love and cherish. Something that serves as the glue, holding communities together. And yet, there has been too little policy emphasis, and for too long, on what contributes to the health and happiness of a person, a family, a community.”

The speech comes as ukactive releases a new report on the impact of leisure facilities, which finds they have a social value of £3.3bn to communities nationwide. Physical activity: A social solution examines the impact that leisure facilities have on community health, as well as broader areas such as education, crime prevention and wellbeing.

Grey-Thompson added: “When communities were rocked this summer by awful tragedies like the Manchester bombing and the fire at Grenfell Tower, it was in leisure centres – like Holmes Chapel, Kensington, Swiss Cottage and Westway – where people gathered to make sense of the atrocities and provide charity to those who needed it most.

“Far from being places to simply gym and swim, these centres are pillars of society, steadfastly supporting communities through thick and thin.

“But many of these pillars are crumbling – in need of urgent repair and renovation to ensure they remain fit-for-purpose, fit for those communities they serve.”

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Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has called on the government to help make physical activity a ‘national religion’ and harness its potential to tackle some of the biggest challenges faced by society.
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