Edition number 3; dateline 30 November 2007

Taking a festive leaf out of the Caledonian book

At this time of the year my thoughts usually turn to two things: food and Scotland. As a proud resident of the East Midlands, what persuades me to leave the tub behind and head north to spend the festive period in ‘God’s Own Country’ (I’m not sure which God but all are welcome according to Scotland’s new strapline, ‘Welcome to Scotland’)? I don’t harbour any distant Scottish relatives – mine are Irish – and it isn’t the whisky, although that’s a bonus. In part it is to visit family in Tomintoul but what really draws me is the fantastic opportunity for walking, cycling and running.

I think of Scotland as a great place to exercise and eat good, healthy food but the statistics tell us that my vision of the country isn’t based on reality. In 2005-2006 there has been a slight increase in deaths from heart disease in 0-44 year olds (ISD Scotland). Further evidence that exercise and healthy eating isn’t as prevalent as the authorities would like shows in recent health surveys. In Scotland and England the proportion of men who were obese was similar (24% in Scotland and 23.2% in England) but women in Scotland were more likely to be obese than women in England (29.4% and 25.9% respectively). Overall 25.5% of adults in Scotland were classified as obese in 2003, well above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average. Although the prevalence of obesity in Scotland is lower than in the United States (32.2% in 2004), it remains one of the highest of all OECD countries, above Mexico, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia (Public Health Information for Scotland – Obesity Briefing Oct 2007).

Having been christened ‘Tubby’ by the managing editor of The Leisure Review despite recently losing four stones (25kg), I have much sympathy for my Scottish sisters and brothers. It isn’t easy changing your lifestyle but one thing I can tell you is that non-judgemental support is vital.

Scotland, in particular Glasgow, has a great tool to use in the form of the Commonwealth Games in 2014 which can help embed a new way of thinking for the nation. But they will need to remember that is the ability to influence the individual that will make a difference as it is each individual who will make the changes and not an organisation, a group or a community.

I am convinced that one area where the ‘establishment’ can begin to effect changes is in the workplace. We in the leisure industry need to start at home as I don’t think I know anyone (except Sideliner) in this industry who doesn’t work very long hours often at unsociable times. Most leisure environments are high-pressure places and if someone wants to take more than two minutes for lunch we question their dedication and commitment. If you line-manage someone why don’t you tell them to take some time for a walk (swim, run) at lunch time rather than just grunt if they happen to suggest it. If they tell you that they don’t have time, check out why. Other things you can do are encourage the eating of fruit during breaks rather than biscuits and encourage flexible working whenever possible. Organisations are beginning to see the benefits of encouraging good practice in the workplace and we can win all round by offering a place for workers from other industries to relax and get fit as well as providing a perfect environment for our own folk.

Anyway, back to Scotland as it was their plight which sent me down this track. Never a nation to accept anything without a fight, they are looking at ways to tackle some of their fitness problems. I noticed a recent development where a new school was being built and one of the sports facilities was to be a mountain bike track in the woodlands that adjoin the school. What a great idea! Not only is cycling one of the UK’s favourite activities, it is loved by many youngsters, it can done by most members of the family, it can be a means of transport to work, school or shops, and it is one of our most successful Olympic sports. In addition, Scotland is positioning itself as one of the best places in the world for mountain biking and cycling holidays and has just hosted the UCI mountain bike and trials world championships. It is great to see it being introduced into schools as a mainstream activity which can be taken on by young people after they leave that environment. Perhaps rather than the ‘innovative thinking’ that our poor development officers are always being sent away to do, we should be encouraging them to build on ideas and activities that are already embedded into our daily lives.

So what is my message this month? Well I guess it is that we need to work with individuals as they make changes; it is great to create innovative schemes but let’s not force innovation at the expense of building on what we already have; and non-judgemental support is vital if we are to move forward together to make any necessary changes.

On that note, I wish you all a very happy festive period full of both good food and fun exercise.


Kay Adkins is an executive board member of a county sport partnership, chair of a CSN and a member of the interim board of the National Skills Academy for Sport and Active Leisure. Kay is also managing director of KAM Ltd, which offers a range of support services in the sport and leisure industry working in volunteer/workforce development and facility development.



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