Masterplan to increase fitness levels unveiled

Sheffield Hallam Park Run: first lap
Sheffield Hallam Park Run: first lap

Work is gathering pace to make Sheffield the country’s fittest city - and there is much more to come, according to the new Move More plan.

One of the main investments would be to overhaul footpaths and cycle lanes, while money would also be used to create ‘active travel hubs’ offering bike hire, bicycle servicing, changing and storage facilities.

“It will start with the most common routes to work and the recreational routes around town,” said Dr Hart, from the Sloan Medical Centre in Heeley, who chairs the Move More board.

“It’s an ambition for all the agencies of the city to adopt this approach - whether we put in faster highways, or prioritise walking and cycling routes.”
A programme of work to improve community safety will also be set up under the plan, tackling the ‘actual and perceived’ risks around certain areas.

“The philosophy is built on the idea of reclaiming the streets and green spaces for physical activity and play,” says the document.

Meanwhile a ‘model of free activity provision’ will be explored.

“When money is a barrier to physical activity, free services remove that barrier,” said Dr Hart.

“In other areas it has been very successful, suggesting a high social return on the investment.”

Also included is a citywide programme to encourage children to play out more, as well as piloting junior Parkruns.

Dr Hart said progress on making the Move More plan a reality is already underway, after details were finalised for Sheffield’s role in a National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine.

The city was allocated £10 million to develop one of three locations alongside London and Loughborough.

Graves Tennis and Leisure Centre will be redeveloped, Concord Sports Centre in Shiregreen is being upgraded and a swimming pool and community gym will be built on part of Thorncliffe recreation ground in High Green.

“Activity Sheffield is just about to start a new referral scheme which is bigger and better than anything before,” Dr Hart continued.

“It will never have been easier for GPs to refer people to activities in the city. Sport England is also working with us on opening up schools to make facilities available to the wider community.”

Up to 100,000 movement sensors could also be offered to residents as part of a mass participation event involving people measuring their activity levels.

“At the moment, the real problem we have is that the data on how much people are moving is only based on 1,000 people, and survey questionnaires are not terribly reliable,” said the doctor.

“There is a discrepancy between what people think they do and what they’re actually doing.”

Last week figures from Public Health England revealed that more than half of all adults in Sheffield are classed as obese or overweight. But in December, Sheffield jumped up a Sport England league table for keeping fit and active.

It leapt from 206th to 16th out of 326 local authorities over five years, in a check on adults taking exercise at least once a week. The biggest improvements were among females and people aged over 35.

The Move More plan says the measures will now be subject to ‘more detailed discussions’, stating: “To be successful in our aim for Sheffield to be the most active city in the UK by 2020, we need to create a population who seek out opportunities to be active as part of their daily lives.”