Claire Black: Physical activity should be priority

Physical inactivity is responsible for 9 per cent of premature deaths. Photograph: Getty Images

Physical inactivity is responsible for 9 per cent of premature deaths. Photograph: Getty Images

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PLASTIC bag swinging, dog trotting by my side, I decided to make the most of what I suspected might be the last day of summer.

I would eat my lunch sat upon a bench while trying to persuade the dog to do something other than waiting at my feet for any morsels to fall into her eagerly awaiting gob.

“Go and run around,” I instructed her as she sat, stock still, gazing at the sandwich in my hand.

Apparently a teacher from the school nearby had issued a similar instruction, because little people, I’d guess around the age of seven or eight, poured through the gates, a cacophony of squeals and shouts, cartwheels and slightly ill-advised forward rolls. (I poop scoop but I’m not convinced about everyone else.) Still, that’s nice, I thought. Good for the little blighters to get out into the fresh air. Given that 50 per cent of seven-year-olds don’t even take the prescribed minimum of one hour of exercise a day, running around might just be even more important than learning long division in the grand scheme of things.

Initial burst of energy expended, the kids sat, cross-legged as their teacher explained the rules of the game she wanted them to play. It must have been complicated as she was still at it when another class emerged from the school gates. No sitting for this lot. Two teachers – one at the front, one at the back – jogged them around the perimeter of the park. Impressive, I thought. Take that global report which revealed that physical inactivity is responsible for 9 per cent of premature deaths and between 6 and 10 per cent of cases of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and breast and colon cancer worldwide.

But then I really started to watch.

A few were out in front, all boys, ­whippet thin, legs pumping like pistons. They looked like they could do this all 
day, every day. Then there was the group in the middle, puffing a bit, cheeks 
pink with exertion. And finally, there were the stragglers, the ones who looked like any amount of long division would be preferable to what they were being made to do.

There have always been stragglers, of course. And there will always will be stragglers; we don’t all enjoy exercise in the same way. But there were a lot of them. There would be.

Nearly 15 per cent of primary one ­children in Scotland were classified as overweight, obese or severely obese last year. Mostly girls, mostly walking rather than running.

“Don’t push yourself too hard,” said the teacher walking with them. Imagine ­having to walk rather than run at the age of seven. Grim.

I LOVE books. I mean, I really love them. They nourish my brain, expand my ­vocabulary, deepen my understanding of humanity.

And trust me I am no snob – you can’t have read every novel Patricia Cornwell has ever written and claim that title. But learning, less than a week after the publishing “event” that was the release of Alexa “I wrote it because I was bored” Chung’s guide to life, It, (“I composed it all in emails to my editor because I don’t have Microsoft Word”), that Nadine Dorries MP has reportedly been paid a six-figure sum for three novels, makes me want to give up reading and take up playing gratuitously violent video games instead. Really, it’s just not right.

USUALLY I find being short-sighted more than a little annoying. It’s not that I don’t like specs, or contact lenses, I do. But not being able to see unaided is a pain. However, there are advantages. It meant that to entirely miss the parade of nonentities that was the red carpet at the annual Celebrity Spectacle Wearer of the Year shindig, all I had to do was take my specs off. Rylan Clark? (I still don’t know what he is) – a blur. Gok Wan? Could’ve been anyone. Same for all of those young women who never, ever wear glasses other than for that photo opportunity.

For my part, my spec wearer of the week is UN special rapporteur on housing, Raquel Rolnik, who called for the bedroom tax to be abolished while wearing a fantastic pair of hot pink plastic gregories. Nice work. «

Twitter: @Scottiesays

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