Good sports facilities can help us stamp out obesity

The dramatic rise in childhood obesity and childhood diabetes is a national crisis. Diet, nutrition, and physical activity are considered vitally important to addressing the problem. Simple ways of improving diet and nutrition can be taught through education in school and at home but how do you tackle a nationwide inactivity epidemic?

Michelle Donelan’s column in the Gazette & Herald [16 January 2017]

The current generation of young people are the most inactive in history and that could have huge consequences for their health in later life. Physical activity is not just about fitness and burning calories of course, but also emotional wellbeing and cognitive development. There are now so many distractions it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep young people interested in exercise. What we do need are inspirational sports stars, role models and coaches but enjoyable sport is virtually impossible without good facilities and good facilities cost money.

This week it was a joy to attend the official opening of the amazing new home of Melksham Football and Rugby clubs at Oaklands. The £7 million development has been funded by grants from Wiltshire Council, the Football Association, Premier League, over 100 local businesses and others. The new facilities form a key part of the town’s £23 million re-development. In total the two clubs currently have over 1000 members and are growing. The new facilities are absolutely stunning and will inspire people to become active in local sport. Last week I used a question to the Sports Minister to welcome the opening of Oaklands and the significant investment in Melksham.

The timing of the new facilities coincides with the welcome announcement from the Government that the soft drinks levy, otherwise known as the ‘sugar tax’ will be spent on improving school sports until at least 2020. This will mean an additional £520 million for schools to pay for an extended school day at 25 per cent of secondary schools in the most disadvantaged areas of our country and will expand breakfast clubs, meaning that children who struggle to get a decent breakfast to start their day have greater opportunities to eat healthily.

The new Melksham facilities are a testament to the years of hard work from a team of dedicated volunteers and are a community asset that the whole town can be very proud of. A huge thank you must go from me and the whole community to them for their unwavering commitment to this project.

I am very confident that the participation levels at both the football and ruby clubs will rise dramatically and both clubs are talking about increasing the numbers of teams, particularly for women and girls and increasing the disability sport that they offer. For more information about these booming clubs visit melkshamtownfc.com and melkshamrfc.co.uk or pop along to Oaklands to see for yourself!

Also published online at www.gazetteandherald.co.uk