Leeds City Council’s director of public health, Victoria Eaton, claimed “things have got worse” since the beginning of the pandemic, and that obesity rates were increasing in the city.
It follows a report published last week by council officers which claimed around a quarter of adults in the city were not currently doing any exercise.
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Speaking to a meeting of Leeds City Council’s health and wellbeing board Ms Eaton said: “Two years on, we are facing an additional layer of challenge as we hopefully come through the pandemic. We are starting to see from the data coming in a new challenge around Covid around physical activity, and there are now issues relating to physical activity.
“It puts it in a more challenging context – that is to say this stuff has got worse in the last two years.
“We know overall that physical activity has declined in the Leeds population, but it has declined the most for the people who live in our most disadvantaged areas, so the gap has grown and is continuing to grow.
“There is something in there about there being an even more compelling case for the work.
“We know we are seeing increased obesity through the pandemic, and we know that will play out in terms of pressures on the health and care systems.”
The report claimed more than 164,000 people over the age of 16 in Leeds are not exercising, a situation worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic’s lockdowns and isolations.
It added that people on lower incomes, as well as those without access to a garden were disproportionately affected, adding that exercise was not a priority for those struggling to meet their basic needs.
Leeds City Council executive board member for health Coun Salma Arif (Lab) said: “Physical activity has played an important role in the response to Covid. There is some potential for physical activity to contribute to the city’s recovery from Covid, particularly in terms of reducing inequalities.”
According to a presentation given to members, council officers aim to set up a “Physical Activity Ambition Board, which aims to encourage more people of all ages into physical exercise.