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David Burrowes MP: The best legacy of the Olympics will be to inspire us all to be more physically active

BURROWES PORTRAITDavid Burrowes is the Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate. Follow David on Twitter.

"Inspire a generation"

These are the words emblazoned across the Olympics. Will it come true?

Many watching the Super Saturday of gold medals will have been inspired. Or even before that brilliantly British opening ceremony, for those in my patch who witnessed triple amputee Rifleman Jack Otter show such courage and determination to walk along Southgate High Street with the Olympic Torch.

There is an expectation that the Olympics will inspire future athletic champions and sports participation. Lord Moynihan was understandably quick off the blocks to call for more support for our schools and sports clubs in nurturing exceptional talent. The chosen legacy provider StreetGames will be key in this task. However, most of us are not going to be great athletes, but we could be more physically active.

We should heed the warnings of recent research which concludes that previous Olympics had little or no impact on physical activity levels in the host nation. I am optimistic that a combination of great role models like Jessica Ennis and Mo Farah, and an improved local environment through more active travel such as walking and cycling, can buck the trend.

The challenge is that whilst we are coming third in the Olympics medals table, we are also third in Europe with the highest proportion of inactive adults. The generation that needs inspiring is not just the future one. Some adults may be inspired by the Olympics but many have ignored the widely known benefits of physical activity. So now is a good opportunity for the 63% of inactive Britons to wake up to the health risks.

Inactivity kills as many people every year (through heart disease, diabetes and cancer) as smoking, and is estimated to directly cost each Primary Care Trust £5 million per year. Physical activity for most of us is not so much about sport and formal exercise. It is about walking more often, having a run sometimes (check out or generally physically exerting ourselves regularly at work, home or leisure time.

My apologies for the health warning whilst we are in the positive glow of the Olympics. I believe the legacy of the London Olympics will bring a lasting positive appreciation of our nation, a boost for our economy and a regenerated East London, excellent sports venues and a new generation of athletes. But I hope the best legacy of the Olympics will be to inspire us all to be more physically active.


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