Guest Blog: A call to action to #BeActive – why exercise is critical for health, for all.

Guest Blog: A call to action to #BeActive – why exercise is critical for health, for all.

Ann B. Gates BPharm (Hons) MRPharmS is an Honorary Visiting Professor Plymouth Marjon University, Honorary Associate Professor at The University of Nottingham, a World Heart Federation Emerging Leader’s Programme 2014-2018, Associate Editor for The British Journal of Sports Medicine, a Certified NHS Change Agent and Founder and CEO of Exercise Works! The mission is to enable fun, physical activity to be available and equitable for all, cradle to grave. Ann is also a daughter, a Mum, and passionate supporter of equity for all.



In early 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a comprehensive action plan for all nations to #Beactive and increase physical activity.

Regular physical activity is proven to help prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and breast and colon cancer. It also helps prevent high blood pressure, overweight and obesity and can improve mental health, quality of life and well-being.

Yet, much of the world is becoming less active. WHO has developed this new global action plan (#GAPPA 2018) to help countries scale up policy actions to promote physical activity. It provides updated guidance, and a framework of effective and feasible policy actions to increase physical activity at all levels. The plan sets out four objectives and recommends 20 policy actions that are applicable to all countries and address the cultural, environmental and individual determinants of inactivity.

It is critical that this action plan is implemented, at scale, across nations, communities and for the benefit of society and individuals.

Fast forward to September 2018 and The Lancet medical journal publishes a study that clearly shows that physical activity across most nations (and in especially in women) has ‘flat lined’.

This study shows that the international, national and local progress towards achieving the global target of a 10% relative reduction of insufficient physical activity by 2025, has failed. This is a disaster for the world but especially England. Why? Because physical inactivity has been implicated in over 37,000 deaths, per year. That’s equivalent to a major plane crash, occurring, in England, every three days. Year in, year out. Would we stand back and allow that to happen? No.

So, it’s all hands-on deck in my opinion: to avert this significant loss of life and reduce the burden of inactivity which clearly increases immobility, disability and premature death.

What does this mean for the North West of England and the North in general?

This means we need to focus less on physical activity research (how many more studies do we need to see that active lives work?!) and focus more on the doing, the implementation, and the challenge to the local environment, schools, health, active transport, and the whole of society to come together to enable more people to ‘move more and move well’. In safety, socially and with fun!

This is a massive implementation challenge for the north west of England. Because we know from Public Health England data (see Figure 1) that the North is already at significant risk from physical inactivity.

ann gates pic 1

Figure 1: Credit Public Health England.

What can you do to help?

  1. Watch this video from the WHO:
  1. Identify one or more of the four areas that you can influence: and make it happen.

Create active society: Create a paradigm shift in all of society by enhancing knowledge and understanding of, and appreciation for, the multiple benefits of regular physical activity, according to ability and at all ages

Create active environments: Create and maintain environments that promote and safeguard the rights of all people, of all ages, to have equitable access to safe places and spaces, in their cities and communities, in which to engage in regular physical activity, according to ability.

Create active people: Create and promote access to opportunities and programmes, across multiple settings, to help people of all ages and abilities to engage in regular physical activity as individuals, families and communities.

Create active systems: Create and strengthen leadership, governance, multisectoral partnerships, workforce capabilities, advocacy and information systems across sectors to achieve excellence in resource mobilization and implementation of coordinated international, national and subnational action to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behaviour

  1. Lead on implementing the global physical activity action plan locally

Join in. Join up with each other. Help make it happen, for all. Because this is what equity in physical activity looks like in reality:

ann gates pic 2

Figure 2 Credit Robert Woods Johnson Foundation

And let’s lead the world in making every contact count for physical activity support and enablement!

For more updates follow Ann Gates @exerciseworks and the hashtag #MovementForMovement

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