Special Report: Get moving to boost chances of living a long life

Red Lion pork burger with bacon and Cheddar cheese, homemade chips and coleslaw.
Red Lion pork burger with bacon and Cheddar cheese, homemade chips and coleslaw.

Long-serving councillor and intrepid cyclist Peter Price has called for people to get out of their chairs and increase their exercise levels after a report revealed city life expectancy has fallen for men ... although women’s is unchanged

Life expectancy of Sheffield residents is falling, according to a new report.

Cllr Peter Price at Sheffield Cathedral for the funeral of Cllr Isobel Bowler who died at the end of June

Cllr Peter Price at Sheffield Cathedral for the funeral of Cllr Isobel Bowler who died at the end of June

Sheffield Council has drafted its yearly health report – the Annual Director of Public Health Report – analysing the state of the city’s well being.

Council bosses say a drop in life expectancy is down to increasing levels of poverty and inequality, with those in poorer areas living less healthily than the affluent suburbs.

Recent reports have shown some council wards differ by up to 10 years.

For the past few decades, there has been a very strong improvement in life expectancy in the UK, both at birth but also for 65-year-olds.

But that trend appears to have slowed down since 2011 and life expectancy in the UK has fallen for pensioners, ending a long-term upwards trend.

The latest figures show life expectancy for men in Sheffield decreased from 78.8 years in 2012-14 to 78.7 years in 2013-15.

For women, life expectancy remained the same at 82.5 years in both 2012-14 and 2013-15.

The average healthy life expectancy – how long people can expect to be in good health for – also decreased.

For women, this was from 61.5 years in 2009-11 to 59.9 years in 2013-15.

The decrease in men’s healthy life expectancy has been less sharp over the same period, reducing from 59.3 years to 59 years.

The report adds GP records show almost 40 per cent of the Sheffield population has at least one long term condition with ‘indications suggesting the percentage is not likely to decrease anytime soon’.

Health chiefs add that ‘unhealthy person years’ are ‘not evenly spread’ across the population with the burden falling ‘disproportionately on poorer people’.

One Sheffield councillor, who puts people half his age to shame with his weekly exercise levels, is sure the key to get the numbers rising again is down to moving more.

Peter Price, who has served on the council for 45 years, wants to get more people out of their chairs.

The intrepid cyclist has ridden across Africa for charity, taking on sandy and rocky terrain in Zambia.

He is also organising a Lake District walk for his 80th birthday.

Peter said the key to improving people’s lives is educating them before retirement age, when many realise they must exercise to combat the ‘widening waistline’ setting in.

Typically, people fall off the exercise bandwagon in their mid-30s, when family commitments take over.

Some tend to stay off it until at least the mid-50s, making it even tougher to start up again when the dreaded realisation that they are not exercising enough.

“People spend more time just watching screens,” Peter said. “It’s about capturing their imagination.

“Making them aware that there’s something you can do, without killing yourself, that will improve your lifestyle.”

‘I fear for the future unless we can check childhood obesity’

Peter Price said he ‘doesn’t do enough’ – but the 79-year-old’s 30 miles a week is still a pretty good effort.

He does it to feel the endorphins which kick in, or as Peter puts it, the ‘euphoria’.

Sheffield International Venues partnership manager Rob Womack reiterated the message.

“One simple thing we can all do to help improve both our life expectancy and our quality of life – important difference – is to move more,” he said.

“Getting more physically active is great for our physical and mental health, and can help us to keep social, keep mobile and be happy. We’re working hard with our partners to support and reach those who are the least active, who also usually happen to be those people within the poorer areas of the city. This is the most important thing we can do as an organisation to improve the health and wellbeing of the city.”

A key recommendation of the report calls on both the council and the Sheffield NHS Clinical Commissioning Group to ask Public Health England to coordinate further research how negative childhood experiences affect long-term health.

Greg Fell, director of public health at Sheffield Council said: “We’ve seen over the last year or so that the historic improvements in life expectancy have ground to a halt.

“That’s been happening nationally and it’s happening in Sheffield as well.

“There are some signs it’s getting worse in some parts of the country.

“We’ve not seen this here in Sheffield yet but we may well do.

“And what’s worrying is that this is not evenly spread – people who are vulnerable and less affluent are having a worse deal.

“Scientific evidence shows that austerity is a factor in this and our response needs to look at what we’re doing as a city around tackling poverty.

“There’s no easy answer to this but it’s something that affects the whole of society, therefore the whole society needs to be involved in the solution.”

Peter acknowledged that childhood obesity formed part of the problem, with youngsters eating too much and lacking exercise.

“I fear for the future unless we can check childhood obesity,” he said.

The public health report will go before a full council meeting on October 6.