Politicians in the UK are taking part in a physical activity challenge hosted by UK Active and Myzone. The friendly competition is designed to raise awareness around the importance of physical activity – for mental and physical health, as well as productivity at work – among parliamentary members and to disperse this message more widely to the general public.
A similar initiative hosted by Myzone and the Physical Activity Alliance ran earlier this year in May, where more than 500 members of Congress (which includes 100 senators and 435 representatives) in Washington DC completed their second annual challenge. As with the UK initiative, activity was measured with Myzone’s MZ-Switch heart rate monitor. The top individual point earner was Marshall Yates from the office of Representative Mo Brooks who gained 20,710 MEPs and the office of Senator Richard Burr had the most staff participating, with 42 employees clocking up MEPs on the leaderboard.
Dave Wright, CEO of Myzone Group, said: “The UK challenge follows the Congressional Physical Activity Challenge in the USA earlier this year that had more than 500 participants. It will be wonderful if our leaders and their teams in Westminster also lead by example.”
The UK event has been endorsed by many parliamentarians, including Kim Leadbeater MP, who is a qualified personal trainer, and Crossbench Peer Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who has competed in five Paralympic Games, winning 11 gold medals, 4 silver and a bronze.
“I'm very proud to be an ambassador for the Parliamentary Physical Activity Challenge,” said Leadbeater. “It's a fantastic opportunity to shine a light on the importance of physical activity, not just for the physical and mental wellbeing of those of us in parliament – important though that is – but also within the communities we represent.
“This challenge will allow all parliamentarians and their teams, regardless of their current activity levels, to demonstrate how physical activity can support all of us in our work. I'm encouraging as many of my colleagues as possible to get active for their own health and to promote wellbeing across the country.”
“Physical activity is crucial for our physical, mental, and social wellbeing, something which the pandemic has served to highlight,” said Huw Edwards, CEO of UK Active. “Today, many of us are faced with growing pressure at home and work, so it is more important than ever that we put our health first and keep active.
"Initiatives such as this physical activity challenge can play a major role in helping to influence the general public and underlining the importance of activity as an essential part of daily life for the entire nation.
“Recognising that working in Westminster can be demanding, we hope this challenge provides an opportunity for parliamentarians and their staff to consider their physical activity levels, as well as its importance to the constituents they serve.”
Parliamentary individuals and teams will be able to monitor their progress via a leaderboard that ranks participants by the average MEPs scored. At the end, UK Active will provide a final leaderboard displaying those with the highest scores.
Each participant will use an MZ-Switch heart rate monitor to measure effort levels which are converted into a points system known as Myzone Effort points (MEPs). These are earned by exercising in the target heart rate zone – the more effort you put in, the more MEPs are earned.
By using this system MPs and their teams can judge if they're meeting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines for physical activity, which, in its latest report Global Status Report on Physical Activity 2022, recommends 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
Physical inactivity levels also negatively impact health services. The WHO also revealed that almost 500m people will develop a preventable, non-communicable disease (NCD), at a cost of US$300bn (£270bn), if governments do not act urgently to reduce the number of inactive citizens.
Currently, almost one-third (27 per cent) of people in England are classed as inactive (less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week) with inequality growing across society. Figures show that the least affluent groups have far lower levels of activity, and, overall, just 61 per cent are classed as active (at least 150 minutes of activity a week).