To be active in the Cairngorms Lycra is not essential and let’s be honest, many of us don’t look our best in skin tight clothing. Special boots, bikes, kayaks or skis are fun but not essential either. Normal gear is just fine for walking to school, burying your toes in the sand at Loch Morlich or building a snowman. What is important is getting outside for some exercise. Homer Simpson’s revealing philosophy keeps it simple: “Yes I strut down the boulevard burning off my excess lard. Oh I love to perambulate, its standing still I really hate.”
We eat too much, drink too much and don’t get enough exercise. It is really that basic. In Scotland almost two in every three adults are overweight or obese and almost one out of every three children is overweight. The two greatest influences on obesity are physical inactivity and poor diet.
Many people here might say “It’s those folk in the big cities that are overweight – all the fast food shops and roads. With our Highland countryside, fresh air and local food we are a healthier bunch.” They would be wrong! In September 2014, Highland NHS reported that levels of obese and overweight children are higher in the area than for Scotland as a whole. One quarter of Primary 1 Highland pupils were deemed to be unhealthy in terms of their weight compared to 21 per cent elsewhere Scotland.
The physical state we are in is often down to personal choice and the good news is that almost 75 per cent of children take the recommended levels of exercise, more people are walking and cycling to work and people are spending less time glued to a screen. Time spent in nature is known to be good for our mental health too. So what more can we do to help people get out and about the Cairngorms National Park while also caring for this special place?
The Active Cairngorms programme is a new set of proposals designed to make the Park a place where physical activity is a fun and daily part of life for everyone not just the fit and the few. Since 2003 almost £8million has been spent on creating a fantastic path network around the Park, a great investment we think, to help people feel better and to boost tourism. So if you really do enjoy a strut, amble, mosey, wander, stroll or a sprint, climb, paddle or ride in the Park we would like your views on the proposals on where and how we should go next to promote active outdoor activities.
Until the 10th of April the CNPA web site has a short online survey waiting to collect your views on the Active Cairngorms – a new outdoors access strategy for the Park. We look forward to hearing from you.