Breaking barriers to healthier lifestyles
By Roxana Chiriac
On the first full day of the MOVE Congress 2014, the participants heard good examples of how better nutrition and physical education can lead to a healthier lifestyle, from very experienced speakers, during the Healthy Lifestyles parallel session 2.
During the session, the good practice examples came from Italy and England, all with targeted actions channelled towards moving their communities.
Andrea Vannuci, assessor of Sport Firenze, gave an Italian insight on the efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles among citizens, stressing that “walking is the right way to healthy aging”. Therefore, Walking People (WAP) and “Firenze, the walking city”, with 97 kilometres walkable paths in the historical and most attractive parts of the city, is one of the projects that aims to combine the tourism and health perspective.
Valerio Neri, the CEO of Save the Children Italy, brought another relevant point on the table of good practices. Following the worrying results in Italy about the level of poverty among children, with more than 1 million children in absolute poverty, a high number of these children find themselves obese, due to bad nutrition. What Save the Children Italy is doing is advocating on the benefits of physical activity in the schools that the children are attending. Their research has proven that this technique works and improvement has been seen, with little to no relapse in the groups targeted.
A familiar project was Active Parks, from Birmingham, where Steve Bedser and Leanne Gregory presented a follow up of their pilot project, started in 2013 – 2014. The project started after the need to make a change in the worrying numbers of inactive citizens in Birmingham (26% obese citizens and 80% inactive). With only 5 parks involved in the beginning, the number increased to 50 parks and open spaces, and people have been more active than ever before. The target group are people that would not normally go to a gym or fitness club, because of the financial situation or because they feel they do not fit in due to their ethnic backgrounds.
An important aspect was mentioned by Steve Bedser during his speech, which is an important barrier that prevents people from being physically active:
“In a city like Birmingham, the fundamental barrier to participation is cost, and that is why we took a bold move, even in a time of austerity, to remove cost as a barrier, so one of our underlined principles, is free participation. But the investment to make it free is nothing compared to the savings that it will bring.”
In fact, for every 1 pound invested, 21 pounds are gained in return. The whole idea of the Active Parks Birmingham project is to “bring people together to have fun, to connect with one another and enjoy their open spaces”.