Matt Hancock is considering a ‘work out to help out’ scheme - here’s what it means

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said he “loves the idea” of a so-called ‘workout to help out’ scheme, with free online activities targeted at different age groups.

The idea was raised in Parliament by Conservative MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham, Caroline Johnson, on 15 October.

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Where has the idea come from?

Addressing the Commons, Ms Johnson said, “The Prime Minister has been very clear in the risks of obesity of those who get coronavirus and that people who are obese have a more severe disease course than those who are slimmer.

“But in Tier 3 areas, many gyms are being closed and many sporting activities are being restricted. So what is the Department of Health doing, what is (Mr Hancock) doing to ensure that we can encourage activity in people who are in those areas?

“Perhaps a ‘work out to help out’ scheme, with free online activities targeted to each age group and each physical ability?”

Mr Hancock responded, “I love the idea of ‘work out to help out.’ It is undoubtedly true from the science that I’ve seen that obesity contributes to a worse impact on you if you catch coronavirus.

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“It’s something the Prime Minister has spoken about with great passion and it’s something that we want to tackle. So I’ll absolutely look into that idea.”

Mr Hancock also stressed the government’s measures have been changed to encourage people who are shielding and in Tier 3 areas that “outdoor exercise is a good thing.”

Why would this help?

Obesity can increase the risk of suffering serious health issues from catching coronavirus, and the government launched a strategy to combat this in the summer, though some criticised its timing, alongside the government’s plan to encourage people to eat out by subsidising meals out, including at fast food restaurants.

A petition on the government's e-petition portal calling for a “Workout to help out initiative” has attracted more than 7,000 signatures so far, after being set up in the summer.

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The petition, created by Nicholas Scott, calls on the government to “subsidise gym membership, group exercise and personal training.”

It states, “The leisure sector has waited the longest to reopen without any additional funding with many unable to reopen, yet the government is giving money off vouchers for fast food outlets such as McDonalds, KFC and Burger King as part of the 'eat out to help out' campaign but prescribing cycling to tackle obesity as part of the 'Better Health' campaign.”