Colin on a walk in the Lake District

One of the highlights of my childhood years, growing up on Canvey Island was when the annual Summer Fayre came to town at Carnival time. A lengthy and colourful procession made up of imaginatively decorated lorries, (renamed as floats for the occasion), and manned by children and adults representing numerous local organisations, that would wend its way around a pre-designated route, the pavements of which were thronged with welcoming and enthusiastic cheering crowds, throwing coins into collecting buckets for good causes. Streamers were waved as the procession passed by and once the crocodile of decorated vehicles were assembled at the end point, prizes for “best float” were awarded to lucky winners. And as a reward for a long and hard days walking, cheering and charitable giving, the gathered fayre provided exciting entertainment with its bright lights, dodgems, numerous rides and roundabouts, and opportunities to win huge teddy bears, for both float participants and the pavement thronging crowds. But just as quickly as it came, so the fayre evaporated onto its next destination equally as rapidly in the early hours of one of the following mornings. All that was left to bear witness to its presence were the happy memories of us islanders and the rather forlorn round patches of flattened yellow grass where the rides and roundabouts had been sited.

I was reminded of this evocative memory when thinking about the now imminent, ending of the Let’s Get Moving initiative throughout Essex. Like the Summer Fayre of my childhood, Let’s Get Moving seemed to come very quickly, out of nowhere in 2016, when I was first contacted by the Oaklands Practice, my local GP Surgery, with an invitation to take part in the local Let’s Get Moving Group on Canvey Island. And yet, I later learned that this health and well-being program had, in reality, been a long time in the planning; the 16th March 2012 to be precise. This was when the Department of Health and Physical Activity Policy published its Best Practice Guidance document Gateway reference 17189, entitled Let’s Get Moving – A physical activity care pathway which had been validated by Loughborough University and recommended by, no less than the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. Its aim was to promote healthier lifestyles amongst GP patient groups and so to reduce the risks associated with inactivity such as obesity, secondary diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, to name but a few. To accomplish this, the aspiration was to have an exercise professional working in and with each GP surgery in the UK, giving “one to one” dietary and exercise advice to participating patients.

As the Lets Get Moving Program is now drawing to a conclusion, have these aspirations been met and what legacy might this worthy initiative be leaving behind? Will it, like the Canvey Summer Fayre, be evidenced only by the happy memories of participants, accompanied by the crushed grass witness marks of stored Let’s Get Moving literature in the bookcase. Or will its results be more tangible in terms of a legacy of healthier lifestyles, lower blood sugars, strengthened core muscles and a greater sense of personal well-being in its past practitioners? There is some encouraging news here because Let’s Get Moving’s own investigations reveal that over 75% of Let’s Get Moving participants actually increase their overall daily physical activity and more, that this level is sustained at 6 months and at 12 months, 70% are still remaining physical active! In the experience of the Canvey Island Let’s Get Moving Group, it is also much the latter scenario that is true for us! Our group members remained active right through to the formal closure of Let’s Get Moving in the Castlepoint area last August. Members had joined local gyms, a short Matt bowls club, a table tennis group, 2 local walking groups, a swimming group, and the Let’s Get into Golf program at Southend on Sea’s Garon’s Park Golf Club and this continues to this day.

The Let’s Keep Moving group after taking part in the Sport Relief Step Challenge covering a staggering 114,332 steps in 45 minutes!

Moreover, members expressed a strong desire to keep meeting locally, under the watchful eye of our exercise professional, Mrs. Victoria Mottershead, and this led to an approach being made to Active Essex and Castle Point Health and Well-being Board, and we are now pleased to report, that as part of Active Essex Strategy ‘Changing 1 million Lives, which encourage’ s Essex residents to adopt healthier life styles over a four year period, the group continues to thrive and is now renamed as the Lets Keep Moving  Group, meeting at the Paddocks Community Centre, Long Road, on Monday’s at 9.30am. All over 50’s are welcome to come along and to continue experiencing the benefits of adopting a more active life style in a good humoured and friendly, “activity led” group.

An observation though, to any health professionals or Local Commissioning Cluster Managers who may be reading this article, the Let’s Get Moving principle of basing an exercise health professional in GP surgeries has been shown to work. Our Canvey Island group is, amongst others, an example of this. In addition to the improved ‘Health and well-being’ of the patients referred to such groups, the continued need for medication intervention (also in our experience), actually reduces, thus making a direct saving on the practice budgets!

Yet, Let’s Get Moving has ended; ended at a time when government and national health bodies are highlighting significant increases in obesity and inactivity related diseases such as secondary diabetes.

Is this a Fayre that should be in town every day of the year I wonder?
Over to you.

For more information on Let’s Keep Moving, see the flyer below: