As the festive season is upon us and we are also in the middle of a general election campaign that seems to be offering lots of enticing and attractive propositions I thought what better time than now to write my Christmas letter to Santa?


The following five requests are not necessarily in order or of course mutually exclusive.  If I get to open one on Christmas morning I will be ecstatic and the good thing about any of these is that I would propose they would also improve many other people's lives too.  It's always better to give than to get and these are definitely gifts that potentially keep on giving....


Number one on my list has to be a fully thought through plan to encourage an active and healthy lifestyle amongst our children and young people.  Not just because Christmas is all about children but of course keeping with the festive theme, "they are our future too".  The decline in activity levels should be considered a national crisis and although I think, it does need a properly funded and respected Physical Education curriculum in schools it must involve so much more than this.  It's at school that we start teaching people to sit down and work for prolonged periods and we must rectify this - because we now know that this behaviour is actually one of the biggest killers in the developed world.  Active lessons and learning must become not just good practice but required practice and we must make travelling to school by active means the easiest and most sensible thing to do - rather than a decidedly dangerous pursuit.  Which brings me onto my second request....


..... which is prioritising active travel over every other form of transport - particularly in towns and cities - but there is no good reason why we can't also join up town and cities much more effectively by public transport too.  As a society, we have become so conditioned to reaching for the car keys or asking for a lift in the car that this default option is both ruining the quality of our environment as well as being hugely detrimental to our health.  Car manufacturers, funnily enough, would have us all believe that the answer is electric cars but it's not.  The answer is to walk, perambulate and / or use pedal power - ie. get on your bike.  The percentage of transport investment into encouraging these forms of transport is now the lowest here in Britain compared to any other EU country I believe - is that why we want to leave?  Yet walking for leisure and recreation is the single most popular physical activity and if anyone tells you it's down to the economy then ask them why business improvement districts measure their success by footfall rather than number of motor vehicles on the road.


Number three on my list of Christmas wishes is the improvement of green spaces in our communities.  It seems so innocuous and such a no brainer that I almost hesitate to mention it but contact with the natural environment has been proven to be one of the best health providing solutions we can have.  Way better than hugely expensive drugs or medical treatments.  Yet when green spaces have been planned into our built communities (which they are required to be by statute) they have usually been given such little consideration that they often become unused, inaccessible and sometimes even dens of iniquity and ill health.  You might think that in somewhere like Shropshire - where we have some of the most amazing outdoor spaces in the world - we wouldn't need reminding of this.  But maybe we got complacent because I recently heard that over 60% of households in the County do not have accessible access to green space in their neighbourhood.  This must be something we prioritise now and Christmas 2019 sounds like a great time to start.  There'll be kids wanting to play with new outdoor toys in the New Year so wouldn't it be great if we could improve the likelihood of them doing this in 2020?


Number four on my 2019 Christmas list is about recognition for the sport and physical activity sector.  Which currently isn't even recognised as a sector in the economy - it doesn't even have a sector skills plan although it does have a Chartered Institute, which at least is a start.  But I think the lack of recognition for sport and physical activity is because we are thought of as a nice to do - a bit of a luxury and not a staple diet of the economy.  This is quite clearly barmy as there's not an industry or sector in our economy that doesn't feed off the benefits of sport and physical activity - not just in terms of creating a healthy workforce but also one that is good at working with others, resilient in the face of adversity and quite frankly one who knows how to plan and train to succeed.  In other words, every other sector feeds off the outputs of the sport and physical activity sector but still we lack true recognition.  And more importantly, it is stifling the progress of both other sectors and the health and wellbeing of our nation.


And last but certainly not least on my Christmas list is the right for everyone to lead an active and healthy lifestyle.  That seems fair doesn't it?  And I do think that leading an active and healthy lifestyle is a basic human right that should be afforded to absolutely everyone regardless of their background or circumstance.  Even people who have committed the most heinous crimes are afforded the right to 'exercise' and it came as a huge shock to me when I heard that some children get less exercise each day than that afforded to those who are locked up at her majesty's pleasure.  Everyone regardless of age, gender, disability, race or religion should be positively included in opportunities and we must do better to make this so.


So that's it - my Christmas wish list for 2019.  I don't suppose I'll get it all but, if you don't ask you don't get and all that.  As my parents were often good at reminding me while I was growing up - you get what you deserve sometimes - and in this case I recognise that maybe some of what I get will be down to me too.


Best wishes to all during the festive season and let's see if together we can all #activelyimprovelives in 2020?  Every little helps.