OVERWEIGHT Brits will be paid to exercise under plans being considered by the Government.
The bold strategy will be part of a drive to slash obesity rates in the UK – blamed for fuelling Covid deaths.
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Sir Keith Mills, who founded the Air Miles and Nectar customer loyalty programmes, will be advising the Government on developing "incentives and rewards to support people to eat better and move more".
Part of his work will include looking at schemes from around the world which have been successful in getting people fit and eating better.
This includes the step challenge in Singapore, a nationwide physical activity programme aimed at encouraging people to do more physical activity for money.
It will come on top of the introduction of free fat-fighting classes – offered to 700,000 Brits – as part of a £100 million package pledged by the PM to help the nation slim down.
Tubby adults will be able to access diet apps and weight-loss plans.
More than £70 million will be invested in weight management services – made available through the NHS and councils – and the remaining £30 million will fund initiatives to help people maintain a healthy weight.
Neville Koopowitz, CEO of Vitality – which already offers a scheme in which users can get points foe exercising – welcomed the "positive step forward in tackling the UK’s growing health crisis".
He said: "At Vitality, we have seen first-hand the power of combining behaviour change and incentives to help people to live healthier lifestyles and reduce the risk of severe illness, including Covid-19.
"By observing data from our 1.3m members last year, we saw that those who participated in regular exercise had a 28 per cent reduced risk of admission to hospital from Covid-19.
“By combining technology such as the latest wearable fitness trackers that allow members to monitor their physical activity with rewards, along with a focus on good nutrition, we can create a mindset shift and nudge people towards healthier behaviours.
"A national focus on incentivisation, goal-setting and rewards will be critical to tackling obesity and saving lives as we start to imagine life after lockdown.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has lost weight himself after becoming unwell with Covid-19, said: “Losing weight is hard, but making small changes can make a big difference.
“Being overweight increases the risk of becoming ill with Covid.
“If we all do our bit, we can reduce our own health risks – but also help take pressure off the NHS.
“This funding will give extra support to people across the country who want to lose weight too.”
OBESITY BEHIND COVID DEATHS
The boost in funding comes after damning research that found 2.2 million of the 2.5 million global Covid deaths were in countries with high levels of obesity.
It includes the UK, which comes in fourth on the global fat list and has the third-highest virus mortality rate.
Two in three adults in the UK are too fat.
And Britain has suffered the fifth highest number of deaths globally, with 123,296 pandemic-related fatalities recorded by Tuesday.
By comparison, Vietnam has the smallest proportion of deaths and the second lowest levels of overweight citizens.
The World Obesity Federation, who conducted the research, said: “The failure to address the causes of obesity over decades is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.”
World Health Organisation boss Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said "The correlation between obesity and mortality rates from Covid is clear and compelling.
"We urge all countries to seize this moment."
Being obese increases a person’s risk of dying from Covid-19 or severe disease, as well as a number of other health problems.
Being too heavy increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and many common cancers.
The Government has faced criticism for failing to get obesity levels down before now.
Professor Rachel Batterham, from the Royal College of Physicians, said: “The link between high levels of obesity and deaths from Covid in the UK is indisputable.
“With 30 per cent of Covid hospitalisations in the UK directly attributed to overweight and obesity, and three quarters of all critically ill patients having overweight or obesity, the human and financial costs are high.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “The urgency of tackling obesity has been brought to the fore by evidence of the link to an increased risk from Covid-19, so it’s vital we take action on obesity to protect the NHS and improve our nation’s health.”
Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said: “Living with obesity can have a devastating impact on people’s health and wellbeing in so many ways, not least its link this year to the increased risk from Covid.
“This investment will greatly boost services for adults struggling with their weight and raising the profile of our Better Health campaign will help to support more people to make healthier choices.”
"This funding will give extra support to people across the country who want to lose weight too."
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