This item was published during the term of a previous administration that ended in April 2007
Best foot forward for better health
Exercise opportunities to be available in all schools to improve the health record of Scots, Ministers said today as the country's first ever Physical Activity Strategy was published.
The strategy calls for new national targets on actitivity levels to combat evidence that shows, from age 11 onwards, the majority of young people and adults are inactive and that inactivity levels are higher among girls and women of all ages.
First Minister Jack McConnell, Sport Minister Mike Watson, Deputy Health Minister Mary Mulligan, and Deputy Education Minister Nicol Stephen all joined pupils on their walk to school at Blackridge, West Lothian.
Mr McConnell said:
"By 2022, 50 per cent of all adults and 80 per cent of all children will meet the minimum required levels of physical activity - an accumulation of 30 minutes a day of moderate activity for adults and one hour a day for children.
"It is sad to say Scotland has one of the worst health records in Europe - a record no-one should be proud of. Lack of exercise is clearly a very common and certain risk to health and wellbeing in Scotland. This results not only in death and disease but also limits the extent to which many people in Scotland can participate fully at school, in work, in their communities and family life.
"The evidence is a stark warning of the need for further action. I want to see everyone, at every age, build more activity into their daily lives - at home, at school, at work, through play and leisure or, as the pupils from Blackridge have shown today, how they travel."
Emphasising the commitment to young people, Mr McConnell said:
"Our young people are the key to improving the health of Scotland's future generations. The right actions now will prevent them suffering the avoidable ill health that has blighted the lives of so many in Scotland today.
"The crucial first step is to ensure that children and young people build sufficient physical activity into their daily lives. I urge all schools to build physical exercise opportunities and activities into the school day."
The key challenges which the strategy identifies are:
- creating, improving and maintaining the supply of facilities for activities (including walking, cycling and informal recreation spaces as well as formal leisure centres and swimming pools)
- developing, increasing and maintaining staff capacity in a wide range of settings to support people become more active
- stimulating demand for increased physical activity through increased awareness in the general population
The Executive plans to take the work forward by:
- the appointment of a National Physical Activity Co-ordinator - Mary Allison is now in post
- the development of four action plans in the areas of Active Homes; Active Schools, Active Communities and Active Workplaces
- a new healthy living brand for physical activity which will tie in with the Executive's health improvement strategy
Deputy Health Minister Mary Mulligan said:
"The health effects of an inactive life are serious. Inactivity accounts for 42 per cent of deaths from heart disease and threatens the progress we have made in this area. Added to this is a catalogue of other disease, disability and poor mental health.
"Physical inactivity has been called the silent killer of our time. Getting more active is much easier than people think - three, short ten minutes walk done by everyone in Scotland on most days of the week would reduce our heart disease, diabetes and stroke as well as tackling the growth in obesity."
The strategy shows inactivity is responsible for a large number of deaths - 42 per cent from coronary heart disease; 25 per cent from stroke; and 25 per cent from colon cancer.
Inactivity also increases the risk of - overweight and obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, and accidents and injuries.
Sport Minister Mike Watson said:
"It is vital that we take steps to address the low levels of physical activity in Scotland and sport will play a key role in this. But we must also keep in mind that sport, as well as cultural activities such as dance, should essentially be fun and enjoyable experiences.
"The Sport 21 agenda works to make activities widely available to all particularly in under-represented communities and in deprived areas. Providing sport in school gives children a healthy start and helps to improve their health and opportunities later in life."
Deputy Education Minister Nicol Stephen said:
"High quality physical education can significantly enhance the ethos of a school and make a real difference to children's health, self-esteem and well-being. We must seize this opportunity to affect long term change in the aptitudes and attitudes of young people."
The Executive will monitor progress towards targets using the Scottish Health Survey and changes in knowledge and attitudes through the Health Education Population Survey. For teenage children the executive will measure additional aspects of physical activity behaviour through the Health Behaviours of Scottish School Children Survey (11-15 years).
The strategy recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity (equivalent to brisk walking) a day is needed to reduce health risks and promote a wide range of benefits including better mental health and a greater sense of well being.
The Executive supports a range of measures to promote cycling and walking. These include:
- nearly £21 million from 2000/04 to local authorities for safer routes to school and cycling, walking and safer streets projects
- over £18 million to local authorities through the Public Transport Fund for cycling projects or projects with a large cycling/walking element in them
- a grant of nearly £1.5m to Sustrans in November 2002 for a further five projects to develop the National Cycle Network
- a 3-month consultation period for the draft Scottish Walking Strategy (launche today). This strategy sets out ways in which walking can be made easier, safer and more pleasant
- further measures to encourage children to walk or cycle safely to school will be announced in the Scottish School Travel Advisory Group report next week