Encouraging Active Lifestyles

Winchester City Council has appointed a new Active Lifestyles Officer, Lydia Lockhart, in a bid to increase physical activity levels amongst adults in the Winchester District.

Although Winchester currently has better levels than many other parts of the country, with 26.8% of adults in the District participating in physical activity at the recommended level of 30mins, 5 times per week, there is still a long way to go to improve health and reduce obesity locally. This lack of physical activity is putting many people at a much higher risk of developing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes.

One of Lydia’s first projects will be to re-launch a GP referral scheme, through which people can be referred by a doctor to River Park or Meadowside Leisure Centres for a personalised exercise programme. The scheme will help residents who suffer from obesity and high blood pressure as well as well as those with diabetes. People with these conditions are most in need of regular physical activity.

Those who are referred to the scheme will be able to choose from a wide range of activities to help improve and maintain their health. The package of activities includes swimming, aqua-aerobics and gym work-outs. Qualified instructors will be on hand to provide support, advice and encouragement.

Another activity that Lydia is working to establish in Winchester and Whiteley to the south of the District is a programme of Health Walks. The walks are suitable for beginners and are led by volunteers who are qualified Health Walk Leaders. Health Walks provide a social walking environment and are suitable for all ages and abilities. They are free of charge and offer a great opportunity to keep active.

Cllr Patricia Stallard, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Sport, said: "Winchester has a range of sporting facilities and open spaces for residents to take advantage of. We want to encourage more people to embrace an active lifestyle and enjoy the health benefits that can come with it. Our Active Lifestyles Officer will be spreading that message across the district whilst also working to increase the range and accessibility of activities available to residents."

The new post is jointly-funded by Winchester City Council, River Park Leisure Centre operators DC leisure, Sport England and Hampshire County Council.

Lydia will be based at River Park and is looking forward to seeing the figure of 26.8% increase. She said, "Over the next four years, with excitement growing at the prospect of the 2012 Olympics in London, we have the perfect opportunity to introduce more people to the fun and personal satisfaction of regular exercise. I am looking forward to helping people discover healthier lifestyles."

For further information about participating in the GP referral schemes or Health Walks (including anyone interested in becoming a volunteer Walk Leader), please contact Lydia on 07980 732 158 or email her at llockhart@winchester.gov.uk