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Active plan to tackle lack of exercise among Asians

Inactivity among children, especially young girls, is a concern for policy makers.
Inactivity among children, especially young girls, is a concern for policy makers.

by Nadeem Badshah

THE disproportionate number of British Asians doing fewer than 30 minutes of exercise a week can be tackled by sports organisations having a more diverse workforce, campaigners believe.

They have also called for GPs to do more to promote physical activity after government figures showed nearly a third of people of south Asian origin aged 16 and over were classed as “physically inactive”, the largest percentage of all the population groups.

Overall, women in the UK were more likely to be physically inactive than men, with the biggest difference found among Asians which has remained the same since 2015.

The charity Sporting Equals sent a report in February to groups – including Sport England – on an action plan it has drawn up. It is set to meet sporting chiefs this month on how to overhaul the sector and address issues including the lack of ethnic minorities in senior roles.

Arun Kang, CEO of Sporting Equals, told Eastern Eye: “There are cultural barriers and [the need for] gender specific sessions, female coaches, welcoming environments.

“The sports sector has not been able to deal with that as effectively as they would like to.

“The workforce in sports organisations is not reflective of local communities. It needs to be changed quite quickly. The decision-makers are white, with little empathy for issues faced by south Asians.”

Kang, whose organisation hosted the first British Asians in Sport and Physical Activity summit last year, added: “One is diversifying the workforce, rethinking the recruitment practice. A lot of [BAME – black, Asian, minority ethnic] people do not apply to sports organisations –they have heard negative comments, and they do not think it is for them.

“Also, it is about getting GP surgeries promoting and recommending physical activity and a healthier lifestyle. We want GPs to do a lot more.”

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport figures also showed 27 per cent of British Asian men were physically inactive compared to 36 per cent of women. Overall, the national average for 2017-18 is a quarter of people doing less than half an hour of exercise a week.

In every age group, apart from 75 years and over, south Asian people were more likely to be physically inactive than the national average.

The trend was also the same among British-Asians in managerial and professional roles, as well as those in manual jobs.

Dr Kailash Chand, a GP and honorary vice-president of the British Medical Association, told Eastern Eye: “In the UK and other industrialised countries, individuals from south Asian populations are known to have substantially higher rates of chronic disease, particularly
type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“We need a holistic approach to live a long and healthy life. Don’t fear fat – sugar and refined carbs are the enemy.

“Keep moving: exercise is for health, not weight loss, and walking is best.

“Fast once a week for 24 hours – have dinner, then don’t have breakfast or lunch the next day – and get at least seven hours of sleep a night.”

Professor Kiran Patel, medical director for NHS England in the West Midlands, said “there is clearly much to be done to influence improvements”.

He said: “Starting with children, we must encourage healthy living which includes a good approach to diet and exercise. Then there is a challenge to sustain good health and wellbeing through adolescence, into adulthood.”

Minister for sport Mims Davies revealed in March that the government is aiming to increase sports participation among children and in particular, young girls.

She said: “We are really concerned about the inactivity of our youngsters. If you don’t get a sporting habit for life when through school, it is more difficult to come back to it.

“It’s also absolutely right that women feel that activity is as important a part of their life as anything else.

“Research shows if you are more fit and healthy as a woman, you are more likely to get your smear test and have mammograms done.”