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Canal scheme launched to help combat obesity

More than 10,000 young people will be recruited to develop a canoe trail along 150 miles of canals in a bid to stamp out obesity.

Volunteers aged between 15 and 24 - including some from England’s most deprived areas - will work on making the waterways between Merseyside and Humberside more accessible for canoers.  

It is hoped the five-year scheme, led by the Canal & River Trust with a £1.3 million donation from the Desmond Foundation, will encourage young people to become more active and take up canoeing.

Community links 

By working with local groups such as clubs, schools and universities, participants will also have the opportunity to form closer links with their community. 

Amy Irwin, 18, a Canal & River Trust volunteer from Sefton in Merseyside, thinks the scheme will boost people’s fitness levels, while teaching them new skills from design and planning to management and promotion. 

She said although she enjoys the canal near her home, many others don’t even know it’s there. She hopes the scheme will change this.

“Canoe action squads”

The Canal & River Trust will call on 15 to 24-year-olds and their families from places including Liverpool, Leeds, Wigan and Goole to form “canoe action squads”. 

Working on a coast-to-coast stretch of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal and the Aire and Calder Navigation, these squads will help to clear the way for the canoe routes. 

They will also identify places for parking, as well as safe access points where people can get in and out of the water. 

Another role will involve planting new community gardens along the route, while the young people will eventually run activities such as canoeing taster sessions.

Tony Hales, chairman of the Canal & River Trust, says the aim is to make canoeing accessible so it can form part of a healthy and fun lifestyle for young and old alike. 

He says the canal trails will enrich people’s lives whatever their physical ability.

Britain’s obesity crisis

According to recent figures published in the Lancet medical journal, more than a quarter of children in the UK are overweight or obese - 26% of boys and 29% of girls. 

Experts warn obesity is taking a devastating toll on our health, leading to everything from type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease to cancer and strokes. 

It is possible to boost your health by making a few simple lifestyle changes, such as: 

  • Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables
  • Joining a weight-loss group
  • Exercising for between 150 and 300 minutes a week
  • Discussing your problem with a health care professional such as a dietician

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