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LGA - Premature deaths: more people need to take up grassroots sports to live longer, say councils

More people need to be encouraged to take up grassroots sports in a bid to lower "alarming" levels of premature deaths, councils say.

One third of all deaths are premature and could have been prevented by lifestyle changes, research shows. These include deaths related to diabetes, obesity, dementia and mental health issues.

The issue is being highlighted at the Local Government Association's two-day annual Culture, Tourism and Sport conference in Leicester, which was held on Wednesday and Thursday this week.

Councils, which are responsible for public health, say the key is to get people active earlier in life. The call comes as latest research shows almost 60 per cent of adults do not play sport. Meanwhile, more than 40 per cent of women and a third of men do not meet government guidelines for weekly exercise (150 minutes of moderately intensive physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of the two). Most grassroots sports take place in swimming pools, leisure centres and open spaces owned or managed by councils.

The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils, is calling for national funding to be devolved through Sport England to councils and local partners in a bid to boost active lifestyles and in turn reduce obesity and ease pressure on the NHS. The LGA wants the Government and Sport England to rebalance future funding away from national sports bodies and directly into grassroots sports programmes.

With statutory services like adult social care, children's services and waste collection soaking up a bigger proportion of council funding, the LGA predicts the money available for other local services, including sport and leisure will potentially shrink by 35 per cent in the next four years.

Cllr Ian Stephens, Chairman of the LGA's Culture, Tourism and Sport Board said:

"It is alarming that a third of people die early and many of these deaths from diseases like obesity, liver, heart and respiratory problems could have been prevented had they been able to lead more active lifestyles.

"The key to combating this crisis is to increase the proportion of people participating in grassroots sport and activity. Most grassroot sports take place in swimming pools, leisure centres and open spaces owned or managed by councils, which is why they are best placed to address this issue.

"Councils need the opportunity to spend this sports funding in the most effective way – on the parks, playing fields and facilities where it can best reach the most people to get active and feel healthier.

"Local authorities already have a great track record in areas where they have teamed up with certain sports to boost participation, such as in cycling and tennis and this should be available to all local authorities to expand upon. The Premier League's recent announcement of investment in school sport is helpful but funding is also needed for the other, less wealthy sports so that as many people as possible can benefit."

Notes to editors:

LGA annual Culture, Tourism and Sport Conference 2016

With a new Government committed to economic growth, devolution and public service reform and financial challenges for councils continuing, this conference is a timely opportunity to debate the implications of the new policy landscape for culture, tourism and sport. Speakers include

  • Tanni, Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, Chair of ukactive
  • Jeff James, Chief Executive, The National Archives
  • Stella Duffy, Co-Director Fun Palaces, Writer, Theatre Maker
  • Victoria Pomery OBE, Director Turner Contemporary
  • Penelope, Viscountess Cobham CBE, Chairman of VisitEngland
  • Jennie Price, Chief Executive, Sport England
  • Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of Historic England

Latest research shows that 57 per cent of adults do not play sport.

Current UK guidelines for aerobic activity recommend that adults aged 19 and over should spend at least 150 minutes per week in moderately intensive physical activity, in bouts of ten minutes or longer, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of the two. The key finding is: 66 per cent of men and 56 per cent of women meet the guidelines.

Sport England's consultation on their new Sport Strategy. There is an online consultation that ends on 26 February 2016. The LGA will also be responding to the consultation and will continue to highlight that councils are central to encouraging people to get active and to the effective implementation of Sport England's new strategy.

Thousands of people could avoid an early death from one of the five big killers:  cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, liver disease.

Case studies

Birmingham City Council – free leisure service to residents

‘Be Active' is Birmingham City Council's scheme to provide free leisure services to its residents. Participants register and are given a card which allows them to use a range of facilities, from swimming pools to gyms and badminton courts, for free during certain times. Over 400,000 people have got involved since the scheme was launched in 2008. Independent research showed that 74 per cent of users were not previously members of sports facilities and half were overweight or obese. The latest Active People Survey results have shown an increase in participation rates from 29.9% to 34.9%.

London Borough of Camden – ‘Pro-active Camden'

Camden is the 15th most deprived borough in London and recorded the second highest sports participation rate (49.4%) in the country. The council plays a key role in driving up participation through its sport and physical activity team that facilitates and delivers sports programmes across the borough. Camden's sport facilities and programmes attracted 2.5 million visits last year and currently there are 36,000 members of its ‘sports membership card' scheme.

Surrey Council Council - Get Active: 50+ Project

This project, which started in January 2016, brings together all 11 borough and district councils with Surrey County Council for a two-year programme of sport and physical activity for people aged over 50 in Surrey. It offers badminton, bowls, swimming, golf, dance/t'ai chi/pilates/yoga, jogging, walking football and disability sport and aims to involve over 3,500 adults.

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