Healthy Lifestyle

‘Healthy’ towns will pay their residents for keeping fit

Families moving into new-build homes could have money knocked off their supermarket bills if they hit exercise targets under NHS plans to promote healthy living.

NHS England is proposing ten “healthy new towns” where residents could win free cinema tickets, food discounts and low-cost gym membership if they sign up to exercise apps that track their progress.

New homes could also be sold with free bikes, running tracks on pavements outside and community gyms to encourage residents towards a more active lifestyle.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “If there’s to be a much needed wave of new housebuilding across England, let’s ‘design in’ health from the start.

“The NHS makes no apologies for weighing in with good ideas on how the how the built environment can encourage healthy towns and supportive neighbourhoods.”

It is time to rip up the rulebook for town planning and get people back on their feet

While the idea for a programme was launched in March last year, NHS England has since put its design out to competition. Citiesmode, urban planners based in London, won with plans for Halton Lea in Runcorn, proposing an “urban obstacle course” linking public gym equipment with sprinting tracks on pavements, free bikes, a community kitchen, shopping discounts and universal wifi to help access health technology. Halton Lea is due to deliver on its strategy in January next year.

NHS England has warned that 25 per cent of British adults walk fewer than nine minutes a day and that inactivity could be killing twice as many people in the UK than the rest of Europe. A study this year found that one in five children in reception and one in three children in year six are obese or overweight.

Health insurers already offer a range of incentives for their clients to stay healthy, which the NHS is looking to emulate. Schemes being examined include 25 per cent off an Ocado delivery for hitting prescribed exercise targets and free cinema tickets for walking 12,500 steps three times a week.

There are more than 76,000 homes on sites that have joined the programme, including Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent, Barton Park in Oxford, Whitehill and Bordon in Hampshire, Cranbrook in Devon, Barking Riverside in London, Whyndyke Farm in Lancashire, as well as new developments in Darlington, Bicester, Oxfordshire, and Northstowe in Cambridgeshire. While the Bicester development will offer 40 per cent green space for allotments, cycle and walkways, the Darlington development plans to build “smart homes” in which the NHS can use technology to monitor the health of elderly residents.

Mel Pickup, chief executive of Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which serves Halton Lea, said: “The trust has long championed a vision of being at the heart of the community through a modern, smaller acute hospital with integrated primary, wellbeing, community and social care support functions all working together around the needs of the patient and the community. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something truly transformational for our population.”

Steven Ward, chief executive of Ukactive, a not-for-profit body which encourages people to be more active, told The Daily Telegraph: “Modern living has stripped movement out of our daily lives, so it is time to rip up the rulebook for town planning and embrace innovative solutions to get people back on their feet.”

Tam Fry, of the National Obesity Forum, said the cost of buying bikes was “peanuts” for housing developers, adding: “The incentive can bring in more business for firms taking part and motivate people to be healthier.”