Tanni Grey-Thompson: physical activity has the 'power to unite our divided nation'
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Tanni Grey-Thompson: physical activity has the 'power to unite our divided nation'

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A nation divided by Brexit could be united by diverting focus to a "more pressing crisis" – improving the nation's health.

That's the message from Paralympic legend Baroness Tanny Grey-Thompson, who has urged political leaders to re-focus their efforts to get the UK more physically active.

In an open letter, Grey-Thompson writes: "Whatever your personal politics on the issue of Brexit there is a common belief that we are a deeply divided nation, with historic loyalties to political parties abandoned and political views measured against the Brexit debate.

"But events can also unite us, especially when built around issues and values that we all share. When we strip away the pace and complexity of the modern world we have common values: we value the health and wellbeing of our children, our families, our communities.

"We are facing a physical inactivity crisis. In the UK the cost of physical inactivity now stands at £20bn per year, and the lack of physical activity causes up to 37,000 premature deaths per year in England.

"Furthermore, physical inactivity is the fourth greatest cause of disease and disability in the UK; it is also responsible for one in six deaths."

Grey-Thompson added that the forthcoming European Week of Sport – which is taking place from 23 to 30 September – presents an opportunity for the nation to unite behind a common cause.

"It is a quirk of fate that next week Britain celebrates the European Week of Sport," she writes.

"Tens of millions of people across the continent will be involved in events and activities celebrating the value of physical activity and sport.

"Now, in this instance, Britain leads the way in Europe. The main event that week will be National Fitness Day on the 25 September, which last year saw more than four million people in the UK, including more than one million children, get involved.

"The events next week will show the value of physical activity to not just physical health, but mental health, and disability, as well as tackling youth violence and disconnected communities.

"Physical activity is the golden thread that runs through our society, uniting us, helping us, supporting us.

"To our political leaders; I’m hugely respectful of the challenges you face, but this issue –the health of the nation – is one I know unites you, and that you know is a priority. Going forward, we need you to translate the good sentiment and intention into the courage to intervene. From the youngest to the oldest, invest in the health of our people."

To learn more about the European Week of Sport, click here.

To learn more about the National Fitness Day, click here.

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A nation divided by Brexit could be united by diverting focus to a "more pressing crisis" – improving the nation's health.
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