How To Create a Physically Fit Nation | Callum

The United Kingdom and most of the West has a huge problem – obesity. Recent articles have debated how significant a problem this is but there is no doubt in my mind that it is a considerable one and probably one of the biggest problems that the United Kingdom must face today. 28% of adults in England are obese and a further 36% are overweight, this quite frankly is a horrifying statistic and the government needs to ameliorate these statistics. Tackling the obesity epidemic will improve the mental health crisis considerably and will free up money to spend on things other than the NHS. How do we tackle such a huge problem? Simple, we must create a truly physically fit nation and inculcate in people the importance of physical fitness. By doing this the obesity epidemic will be tackled and we will be a much fitter nation as a result. In this article I aim to outline some practical policies which could be pursued to create a physically fit nation and tackle the obesity epidemic. 

The first policy which I propose is a radical one. National fitness tests which are conducted yearly to determine an individual’s physical fitness. There will be different benchmarks to hit for different ages and for each gender and if you are physically unable to participate in the test then you will be exempt. The test would be simple and would require citizens to run a mile in a set time, do a certain number of sit ups and a certain number of push ups. This would test a citizens’ strength and cardiovascular fitness. If a citizen fails the test then they will be put on a training programme which will allow them to pass and they will then attempt the test again and will hopefully pass a second time around. However, if they still fail this time then they will have to pay higher taxes as they are a burden to the state and unless they pass the test next year then they will remain on the higher tax band. Every citizen from 18 to 55 would take the test once a year. This I believe would create a huge incentive for people to be physically fit and although it would take time to implement, would be highly beneficial in the long run. A nation with a fit and physically robust adult nation would be a highly successful and happy one.

The second policy which I propose is somewhat less radical but just as important and beneficial. The policy is free gym membership for all adults and state subsidies for the gyms and leisure centres. I admit that this would be an expensive policy but the government has just blown billions on Test and Trace and billions are pumped into the NHS each year. In the long run, this policy would lead to a considerable saving as the nation would be much healthier and the NHS would have to spend much less money on treating obese people. Of course, just giving an obese person a free gym membership would not solve anything. Obese/overweight people would be put on a training regime in order to lose weight by a personal trainer at the gym and it would be exclusively tailored to them. Obese/unhealthy people who have never engaged in intense physical exercise would have no idea where to start and a personal trainer is normally very expensive. Thus, by making gym memberships free and giving them a tailored programme it would be much easier for them to lose weight and to participate in exercise on a regular basis.

The third policy I propose is to encourage people to walk and cycle to work instead of constantly relying on cars and public transport. Take the average secondary school in the UK, within the catchment of that school there are many students who live less than 5 miles away, yet how do they get to school? They get the bus or are driven. If students who live less than 5 miles away are encouraged to walk/cycle to school then that will make a huge difference to their fitness and will also lead to a significant change in the nation’s psyche regarding exercise and getting to work/school. The same policy would also be encouraged in adults, if you live less than 5 miles to work then you will be encouraged to cycle or walk and companies could make use of incentives such as the Cycle to Work scheme to facilitate this. More cycle lanes and other cycling and walking infrastructure would also need to be built to ensure that this policy could be effectively implemented. The more cycle friendly routes there are then there will be more people that cycle to work. One only has to look at the Guided Busway in Cambridgeshire and the volume of commuters that go down that to see the impact that safe and effective cycle paths have on people commuting to work by bike. This will ensure that people are exercising on a daily basis and will also make sure that that there are no excuses for people who say that they are ‘too busy’ to exercise. As just getting to work/school and back will be their exercise done for the day.

The final policy I propose is not a policy at all but is a cultural and societal shift which regards exercise and being physically fit as one of the most important aspects of a citizen’s life. Some of the greatest states in human history such as Sparta and Rome have regarded physical fitness as fundamentally important to each citizen and even as a prerequisite for attaining high office. It would be impossible to climb the cursus honorum if a Roman man was not physically fit. Thus, we need to have the same attitude in the United Kingdom. Our leaders should represent these values and should treat exercise as the important activity that it is. We always see the odd photo of Boris Johnson cycling or Matt Hancock running but they are still weak men and do not represent the ideal of a fit and active man. If we had impressive, physically fit men and women representing us then it would be anathema for any citizen to not be fit. In the past we were led by kings who embodied the virtues of strength, chivalry and showed these off in tournaments and on the battlefield. Of course, the modern world is significantly different but why shouldn’t our leaders also represent these ideals and show off their own physical prowess? This would lead to a huge change in the nation’s psyche and the pursuit of high office would be synonymous with being strong and physically impressive. This shift would also take place at a lower level and in workplaces around the country, conversations around exercise would dominate and citizens would be encouraged to be physically fit in all areas of life. This is hard to properly implement but if the above three policies are pursued then this shift may happen naturally over time or it may require a physically fit leader to properly oversee this radical shift in the nation’s attitude to exercise and physical fitness.

I believe that these policies are not exhaustive and there are also many other ways to create a physically fit nation. However, these proposals are a good start and would go a long way in tackling the obesity epidemic which is facing the United Kingdom. Creating a physically fit nation would also create a happy one, the endorphins which exercise produces are addictive and exhilarating and by encouraging people to regularly exercise we will undoubtedly see much less mental health problems. Thus, these policies would help to create a physically fit nation and other nations may also copy us and implement these policies. There is nothing stopping the United Kingdom from becoming a new, modern Sparta or Rome which values physical fitness as one of the fundamental activities in a nation’s life. 

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