Comment: Now more important than ever to exercise

Time to swap sedentary life for health’s sake, says David McLean

It is easy to extol the virtues of physical exercise, but many of us need support simply to take those first steps. Picture: TSPL
It is easy to extol the virtues of physical exercise, but many of us need support simply to take those first steps. Picture: TSPL

Excuses: as a nation, we are very good at making them, especially when it comes to getting active. By this time in January, our New Year’s Resolutions are beginning to slip. We cannot get to the gym; we are all too time-poor to exercise, too self-conscious, too cold, too hungry – the list goes on.

But, the situation is reaching crisis point. Just this week, a Cambridge University study told us that lack of physical activity killed twice as many people as obesity.

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According to researchers, 337,000 of 9.2 million recorded deaths of European men and women were attributable to obesity.

However, twice this number- around 676,000 deaths – could be blamed on inactivity.

Our NHS is groaning from the strain of, among other things, a massive increase in disease caused or exacerbated by physical inactivity.

According to data released by the Scottish Government last month, although we are becoming more active, 65 per cent of Scottish adults were overweight or obese in 2013. It is a staggering figure that proves we still have a gruelling assault course of obstacles to overcome before we become the healthy and active nation we know we can be.

On a global level, the World Health Organisation now class physical inactivity as the fourth- largest disease in the world, causing 3.2m deaths annually.

It is not just Scotland’s problem, it is a worldwide issue that we all need to tackle together.



It might seem like an insurmountable problem. However, at Edinburgh Leisure we say there are no excuses – changes need to happen person by person if we are ever going to see an improvement in our overall health as a nation.

If you are still not convinced that Scotland must act now if it’s to pull itself out of these threatening statistics, take a look at these motivating reasons to boost your physical activity levels.

According to the Centre of Disease Control and Prevention, incorporating just 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise into your weekly routine can diminish the danger of developing cardiovascular disease. There is even evidence that exercise can decrease the risk of getting Type 2 Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and some cancers. Depression can also be curbed and mental agility increased with a good exercise regime.

It is easy to extol the virtues of physical exercise, but many of us need support simply to take those first steps.

On a local level, the support has never been greater. Edinburgh Leisure has invested over £60,000 in the past two years alone in specific health-related training for staff to allow us to take the lead in helping the nation become more physically active and do our bit to ease the strain on the NHS.

We now have over 90 per cent (60) of our fitness staff certified with the industry recognised Level 3 Exercise referral, meaning we can, and do, work with more people with health conditions who require support and guidance.

We can now accept a great number of customers via health referral programmes pre and post operation and have a dedicated health team who are qualified to support and assist customers with conditions that require an increased level of knowledge and understanding of their conditions. We pride ourselves on the great partnership projects we have with NHS Lothian.

However, we know that sport and leisure centres are not for everyone. Many people prefer moving outside and wherever you live in Scotland there are public green spaces within easy reach. This may mean that a gym or swimming pool is just one element of what helps you achieve your physical activity goals.

On a global level, there has never been more awareness of our activity levels and our body through technology. Even the largest of multi-national corporations are getting in on the act – Apple and Google fighting it out in the market of ‘wearable technology’ to tell us everything from our heart rate to sleeping patterns.

With all these great developments working in tandem, we stand a better chance than ever in our battle against poor health. Tackling physical inactivity must be a common goal if we are to make any real impact on these challenges. Let’s all try to move more and live a healthier life.

• David McLean is fitness manager at Edinburgh Leisure