A national newspaper recently interviewed me asking about my campaign “Get Britain Fit” on BBC Breakfast Time back in the 80’s. I had appeared daily in the guise of The Green Goddess and introduced the public to the health benefits of taking regular exercise regardless of age or ability. The campaign was a resounding success and got the nation, irrespective of age, moving. A few years later ITV’s breakfast show copied the idea and Mad Lizzie got their audience jumping. Between us we motivated the public, Keep Fit classes popped up everywhere, and the Fitness Industry took off. Brightly coloured Lycra leotards and tights, plus legwarmers became desirable, and trainers fashionable, as the nation jumped and twirled in aerobic classes and puffed and panted cycling and jogging.
It was immensely satisfying to see people of all ages enjoying keeping fit, looking trim and healthy. Taking regular moderate exercise improves the 3 S’s -strength, stamina and suppleness, and many women in particular saw an extra benefit (also beginning with S), an improvement in their size and shape! On TV every morning we made the watching public aware not only of the health benefits from doing regular physical activity but also informed them of the necessary balance between the food (calories) they ate and the calories which they burnt up going about their everyday lives. According to the NHS Choices weight loss plan women should be consuming 1,400 cals a day and men 1,900 cals. It was a recipe for health and happiness!
But roll on 30 plus years – and I had to admit to my journalist the dismay I feel, when despite knowing what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and having local amenities available in which to participate, so many people today have got it so wrong! The figures are staggering. Even back in 2014 nearly 2/3rd of people in the UK were found to be either overweight or obese, and the financial burden on the NHS is overwhelming as figures continue to rise. Medics are concerned by the lack of physical activity today and results of recent research over several decades published in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology showed that inactive men stood a 40% risk of dying earlier than those who had kept active. I’m disappointed when I look around me and admit to feeling something of a failure. What went wrong?