The Labour deputy leader has transformed his health through activity

The Labour deputy leader has transformed his health through activity

A leading politician whose newly active life has transformed his health will climb Wales’s highest mountain to launch a campaign to get people active.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson will make the ascent of Snowdon with Outdoor Industries Association chief executive Andrew Denton.

The MP for West Bromwich East also plans to undertake canoeing, cycling and swimming as part of the initiative, which aims to demonstrate the benefits of adopting a more active lifestyle.

Mr Watson was diagnosed in late 2015 with type-two diabetes, after decades of poor diet and inactivity. He said, though wasn’t a huge shock to him at the time, it was the jolt that he needed to improve his lifestyle. As well as cutting out sugary foods, Watson took up exercise and over time, he lost seven stone and his diabetes was diagnosed as in remission.

The 52-year-old is backing the OIA’s Adventures 4 Health project in the hope others will following in his footsteps.

His ascent of Snowdon is scheduled for Saturday, supported by the National Mountain Training Centre at Plas y Brenin and the British Mountaineering Council. The event aims to demonstrate how easily-accessible outdoor activities can play a major role in improving physical and mental wellbeing.

Outdoor Industries Association chief executive Andrew Denton. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Outdoor Industries Association chief executive Andrew Denton. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

On 20 July Mr Watson will canoe a section of the Birmingham and Black Country Trails with British Canoeing, through his parliamentary constituency and into the heart of Birmingham, finishing at the town hall. The six trails, along 75km of canals, offer canoeists easy-to-follow routes through an area at the centre of the country renowned for its industrial heritage. The MP and Mr Denton will help British Canoeing champion the work that the organisation does to ensure access to water, facilities and equipment for anyone who wants to canoe.

Two weeks after the paddling challenge, the pair will get into the saddle to cycle the 46-mile Prudential RideLondon road sportive in Surrey and London, finishing on The Mall. The popular event attracts thousands of cyclists of all abilities every year, but this will be Mr Watson’s first experience of riding in a sportive.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. Photo: Tom Oxley CC-BY-SA-4.0

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson. Photo: Tom Oxley CC-BY-SA-4.0

His final Adventures 4 Health challenge in 2019 will be a half-mile open-water swim in the Children With Cancer UK Swim Serpentine festival in Hyde Park on 21 September. Swimming is the second most popular activity in the UK, after walking, and Mr Watson and Mr Denton aim to demonstrate how accessible it can be, even if there isn’t an indoor pool on the doorstep.

Tom Watson said: “I realise that my circumstances and position provide me with the resources to take action, but it all had to start with me making that decision to change.

“Through Adventures 4 Health, I want to show other people what is possible as an individual and how easy it is to access so many different activities, in every part of the country.

“We face a growing inactivity epidemic in the UK and it’s killing people. But it doesn’t have to be this way and I am really pleased to be working with the Outdoor Industries Association on this positive project to promote participation. It’s no exaggeration to state that my life has been completely transformed in recent years and I hope that sharing my experience on these four events will encourage others to set off along their own path towards healthier, more active lives.”

Adventures 4 Health is being co-ordinated by Andrew Denton, working closely with Tom Watson’s office and in partnership with London Marathon Events, the Outdoor Industries Association, Sport & Recreation Alliance, British Canoeing, British Cycling and the British Mountaineering Council.

  • Bob Smith is a member of the OIA.

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