Saturday 1 October 2016

On your bike: €5.5m plan to get more of us working up a sweat

Published 15/01/2016 | 02:30

Health Minister Leo Varadkar (left), cyclist Ciara Doogan and Sports Minister Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the plan in Ballybough fitness centre in Dublin yesterday. Photo: PA
Health Minister Leo Varadkar (left), cyclist Ciara Doogan and Sports Minister Paschal Donohoe at the launch of the plan in Ballybough fitness centre in Dublin yesterday. Photo: PA

The Government is to spend €5.5m to get half-a-million more of us working up a sweat by getting active to reduce the risk of disease and improve well-being.

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The country's first National Physical Activity Plan, launched by Health Minister Leo Varadkar and colleagues yesterday, aims to increase the number of people taking regular exercise by 50,000 a year over the next decade.

Seven out of 10 adults are too inactive and failing to get the necessary 30 minutes a day of moderate activity five days a week which is recommended for 18- to 64-year-olds.

The plan will involve supporting more community walking groups, getting doctors to prescribe exercise for patients and encouraging employers to bring in standing desks to avoid staff having to sit all day.

It is also planned to introduce a new school subject, Wellbeing, from September as part of the new Junior Cycle and this will include physical education.

It will also build on the success of Get Ireland Walking by setting up new promotions such as Get Ireland Swimming or Get Ireland Cycling.

Mr Varadkar, who took time out to demonstrate some weight training at the Ballybough fitness centre in Dublin before rushing to the Dail, warned: "We often focus on the day-to-day problems in health, but we will never get on top of any of these if we don't improve our health as individuals.

"Being healthy starts with personal responsibility, but the Government also has a role to play."

Transport Minister Paschal Donohue, who blended with gym-goers in his yellow and grey trainers, said he will allocate €1m for the employ- ment of multi-sport development officers to support the delivery of programmes at local level.

The promise is to make it easier for people to exercise by providing more cycle routes and parks.

Obesity expert Prof Donal O'Shea welcomed the plan, saying it was key that it covered several departments.

He was relieved that it involved funding ring-fenced for its implementation. It will be assessed against targets in three years' time.

Irish Independent

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