Mark is Head of Sport and Leisure at Salford Community Leisure
In Salford, a staggering 22 per cent of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese and over a third of ten to 11-year-olds. It’s one of the most overweight areas of Britain.
Salford Community Leisure became so concerned about the health of the people using our centres that we've taken the radical step of removing all the full-sugar drinks from our eight leisure centre vending machines. We’re proud to be the first leisure operator in the UK to do this.
Drinks such as cola, lemonade, fizzy fruit drinks and full-sugar slush syrup have been removed for the whole of March. Now, when our 1.3 million annual visitors are thirsty they’ll have to choose water or a low-calorie drink.
One family benefitting from the cut in calorific drinks are the Thompsons from Winton. Dad Guy, 39, mum Becky, 35, and their children Jordan, Connor, Jessica, Guy, Lucy and Ava, aged between four and 17, are also taking part in our #OneYouSalford challenge, aiming to get fitter as a family over 2017.
Guy says: “We’re a large, busy family and all the kids are at different ages and stages, so it can be hard to spend quality time together when we’re not working, studying or transporting them around.
“Becky and I are self-employed which means we do have flexibility but with six children to look after, there still is little time in the day to look after our own health and fitness and it’s easy to neglect your own needs. I suffer with arthritis but it doesn’t stop me from doing most exercise.
“We’re not an unhealthy family – Jordan is training to be a chef so we always eat home-cooked meals and no processed foods, but we do like to snack! We have a healthy approach to food generally and we enjoy eating out as a family.
“Overall, we’re just not that fit and we also want to create some healthy family habits now and set an example to all the kids. Our main aim is to complete a number of charity runs, working up to a full marathon next year.”
Serious health problems
At Salford Community Leisure we are committed to helping families like the Thompsons every step of the way. Being an overweight child means you’re more likely to become an obese adult and be prone to a range of serious health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers and type-2 diabetes – all having a major impact on the quality of lives.
Young people do not need extra sugar in their diets, and these drinks don’t aid performance when participating in sport.
At the end of the month we’ll ask our visitors how they think this trial has gone. If everyone is as positive as they are now, we may not put the sugary drinks back into the vending machines, making this positive change permanent.