OPINION: Don’t get fat - go to the park instead

Ruskin Park in Walkley.
Ruskin Park in Walkley.
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It’s a problem that never seems to shrink: growing waistlines and soaring health issues.

The Star can report today that a shocking one in 10 people in Sheffield are at risk of developing diabetes, linked to obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle.

Obesity is not something unique to Sheffield. It is a battle being waged almost everywhere in the western world and one which has been raging for decades as global corporations look to push junk food onto ever-younger demographics.

At times it seems like it’s a battle we’re losing, as children and parents are increasingly lured in by the combination of cheap ready meals and instant-access digital entertainment.

But in Sheffield, there are concerns over deprivation. Last month we reported that the life expectancy gap at birth between richest and poorest in our city stands at 9.7 years.

How can people lead healthy lives if they can’t afford to buy fruit and vegetables?

That’s why Sheffield Council should be commended for its efforts – also reported in The Star today – to get more people into one of the city’s 800 green spaces.

Sheffield is uniquely equipped to lead the way in the war on waistlines.

We are blessed with more parks per head of population than anywhere in England, a staggering number of public spaces in which to walk, jog and enjoy ourselves.

As the birthplace of football, the city is full of playing fields – many hidden away in little parks off overlooked side-roads, like Long Lane in Stannington or the field by East Earsham Street in Pitsmoor.

Health guidelines recommend 30 minutes of exercise every day, and even a gentle walk round your local park can slash your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other obesity-related conditions.

It’s vital we all play a part in taking up a more healthy lifestyle and encouraging others to do the same – especially for our children.

That means we must also keep putting pressure on authorities like the council, the NHS and the government to improve cycling routes, drive down pollution levels and address inequalities across Sheffield.

The battle against obesity is always going to be an uphill struggle and it requires the best efforts of everyone across the city.

But no matter how difficult, every journey starts with just one step.

Best lace up the trainers, then.