Documentary in which John Beattie looks at why the nation's elite sporting success has not translated into a healthier population.
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It's been like a beautiful dream.
A world number one, a golden summer at Rio.
It is a golden start for Great Britain.
And all off the back of the Glasgow games -
sunshine, medals, success.
I'm John Beattie, and I've been as swept away
by our athletes' success as anyone.
But there's always been something bothering me.
We were told that all these medals would make us more sporty,
more healthy, and more active.
The Commonwealth Games would inspire Scots young and old to participate
in sport, improve their health and life chances.
The potential of the games is enormous.
The potential to get more people taking part in physical activity...
Gold to Heather Miley.
She had a whole bunch of people in this stadium behind her.
-If other people's children are anything like mine,
they are dreaming of being Bradley Wiggins or Jess Ennis
or Dave Weir or Jonnie Peacock.
They're begging their parents to set up mini Olympics.
But has our elite success translated into a healthier population?
I've been meeting elite athletes, experts and ordinary folk.
And it's time to hear the truth
about exactly what our golden summers have really achieved.
So has there ever been a games where there's been a health benefit
afterwards, anywhere in the world?
-No? Not at all?
So, watching Andy Murray, you haven't thought,
"Right, I must go and play tennis."
Well, I've tried it, but it doesn't work much.
Why doesn't it work?
Because I'm not good at hitting the ball.
Someone who is fairly inactive, watching sport,
it's not going to be a lightbulb moment
where they automatically think,
"Right, I'm going to change my life, I'm going to become an athlete,
"I'm inspired by this performance."
I want to investigate whether there's a link
between elite performance and our wider health.
So join me in the sandpit while I run a few numbers.
Well, we all remember what it was like.
We saw in the Commonwealth Games and in the Olympics
a massive increase in
the number of medals.
Now I'm drawing out the numbers for how many Scots meet
the minimum recommended levels of activity.
That's a measure that includes walking, cycling and housework,
not just sport.
These numbers hardly vary.
In 2012 they changed
the target for adults.
But what we're looking at
are flat lines.
So can sport really be inspiring us all?
This is a big day for Scottish sport -
the launch of Oriam.
It's our new performance centre,
and it cost £33 million of public money.
And where sporting success is to be celebrated,
politicians are never far behind.
After all, everyone wants a little of the gold dust
from our elite success.
It's an incredible facility.
And look who's here - the First Minister,
MSPs, heads of the council,
people in charge of governing bodies.
And what you can say is, everybody wants a little piece of elite sport.
So is the idea that elite sport inspires us all
one that's promoted by our current First Minister?
I think we've got to work to make sure that link is there,
but I don't think there's any doubt that the inspiration
that our top sportsmen and women provide for us,
the excitement and pride that they instil in us,
helps to encourage people to become more active.
But fundamentally the numbers of medals have gone up
and sporting activity has completely flatlined,
so there is no link, is there?
Well, I tend to be a kind of glass half full person.
I think it's great that our medal tally is going up.
I think that's something we should be proud of.
I think it's something that we should celebrate,
that we've got probably the best facilities for sport in Scotland
now than we've ever had.
And instead of saying,
"Well, participation has not gone up yet, so it's not worth doing,"
we should say, "Well, we've got all these facilities,
"we've got that success, let's redouble our efforts to make sure
"the benefits of that permeate through society as a whole."
So the higher up you go, the more that treadmill,
-the quicker it'll move.
And then eventually when you get comfortable you can sort of let go.
I think I might not let go, with the cameras on me!
So the First Minister is hanging onto the idea
that medals inspire us all to do more.
And I can see why.
It's a very powerful idea.
Everyone in there is caught up with the view that elite sport,
which is exciting, enthralling and enticing,
is also the thing that makes you and me want to be sporty,
active, and healthy.
I'd like that to be true.
But not everything you wish for is true.
'In the spirit of being more active,
'I'm taking a walk in the glorious Scottish countryside.
'I'm also hoping to find out whether that link
'between elite sport and our health is real.
'So I've brought Professor Leigh Robinson with me.'
Is there any evidence that if we win medals, say, at a games abroad,
or host an event, that that makes the rest of us healthy?
No, no evidence at all.
But it's such a persuasive argument.
It is because we like the idea that if we win a medal,
other people will rush out and take part in physical activity,
but that just doesn't happen.
So has there ever been a games where there's been a health benefit
afterwards, anywhere in the world?
-No? Not at all?
Professor Robinson says you can prove
big events bring infrastructure benefits,
even that medals make us feel better,
but not that they make us healthier.
Politicians and people who are trying to promote elite sport
need to stop with that argument.
Whether we, the public,
are overly concerned about that argument,
whether we like the fact that we win medals, that we are world champions,
that we go away to events and are very successful,
that may just be enough for us.
-The whole crowd on their feet,
the roof pretty much lifting off.
Can Robbie Renwick get a medal here?
Australia win the gold medal in the men's four by 200 freestyle relay,
Scotland a wonderful silver medal...
Some of our best recent successes have come in the pool.
Swimmers like Robbie Renwick and Michael Jamieson have won medals
at Olympic and Commonwealth Games.
'They joined me for a dip at
'Edinburgh's Royal Commonwealth pool.'
This is a different planet.
It's like watching two dolphins
who've spent all their lives
perfecting what you see - this incredible smoothness.
It's amazing seeing it up close, it's amazing.
'This technique is the result of 20 years of work.
'But what got the lads into the pool wasn't watching
'elite swimmers perform.'
For me, getting into the sport was part of the fun of learning to swim
and having all your friends around you.
You know, when I grew up, as a kid, learning to play football,
playing basketball, cross-country running, swimming,
it was just about being active.
Like, general activity was the real passion for me at a young age,
and trying to learn all these new skills.
'So even for elite performers, the starting point
'was swimming for fun, not glory.'
When you're in the pool, competing, in your head,
do you believe that there are lots of inactive children thinking,
"Right, I want to swim"?
Do you inspire them?
Someone who's fairly inactive, who lives a fairly sedentary lifestyle
is at home watching sport,
I don't think that's really going to,
it's not going to be a lightbulb moment, where they automatically
think, "Right, I'm going to change my life,
"I'm going to become an athlete, I'm inspired by this performance."
I do feel like there are a lot of kids that would
certainly probably not take up sport
when they probably could, they would rather stay inside,
play video games, that's the way it seems to be heading right now.
Physical activity really matters to all of us.
A stunning two thirds of Scottish adults are overweight.
Being more active could make a big difference,
but what does that mean?
Physical activity is really emerging as a major focus in public health.
Diabetes, stroke, mental health disorders, cancer,
all of these, if you are physically active,
all the incidences of these diseases may be decreased in the long-term.
The government target is for all of us to achieve
150 minutes of moderate activity a week.
That means anything that gets your heart rate up -
walking, or even gardening.
So we're asking Edinburgh commuters to tell us whether they measure up.
I'm hoping to do a half-marathon this morning.
-I normally do...
I normally do two a week.
-So you cycle every day?
-How far do you cycle?
-About half an hour, something like that.
-Half an hour each way?
-So that'd be what?
-We're off the scale.
-..in terms of activity.
Well done. Fantastic.
Walk the dog five and a half miles,
and I swim 60 lengths every morning in the pool.
-And I'm fat.
-You're not fat.
-No, no, I'm getting there. I'm working on it.
I decided I was getting too heavy,
so I decided exercise was key.
It's been shown that people who do regular physical activity may live,
on average, seven years longer
than people that don't regularly exercise.
So, genuinely, he's just lengthened his life by seven years by...
You're one of the healthiest people we've spoken to all day.
That's a worry, yeah.
-JOHN LAUGHS Well done.
-All right, thank you.
We spoke to a fair few commuters,
but the ones that agreed to stop and chat
were largely those who were already doing what they needed to.
But we know a significant minority of Scots aren't.
Where are we, then?
Because we have this plateau in activity levels
and we seem to be talking to people who already know the message.
Well, I think the venue we're at today,
people are on their way to work and they're all motivated
and they're walking and cycling.
And some of those people do know the guidelines, but we need to
get out to people that don't know the guidelines
and who are much less physically active.
A freezing evening in Kilmarnock.
I've come to meet a family who know they're not active enough.
The Bias family are heading out to take part in a class
designed for those whose health is at risk from their inactivity.
Rachel and Chloe are twins.
And they're both here because their school and their mum are worried
that they were seeing health problems because of their weight.
Can I ask you, were you ever worried about their weight?
A little bit. Yeah.
The doctors and everything, they're always saying about their size
and obesity and all that. I never put that down to them,
but we were trying to bring the weight down a wee bit.
I sat down with the family over a healthy tea.
And I wanted to know what it was that was stopping them being
as healthy as they wanted to be.
Phones and tablets, computers.
The weather, cos sometimes even getting them outside...
They've got a trampoline out there
but getting them out on it sometimes is difficult in itself.
And sometimes money, for the sake of their classes.
A lot of them are quite expensive in the area,
but we're getting a few en-route now that it's not too bad.
Because it's difficult to be active, isn't it?
-It's difficult to be sporty.
-You've got to go and do stuff.
You've got to get up. It's tough, isn't it?
Especially when it's wet.
Ah. Well, yeah, exactly.
'And medals are unlikely to inspire these girls,
'because they don't watch much sport.'
You don't watch any sport on television unless it's football
-with your dad?
-And that's it?
-So you don't watch...?
Unless Andy Murray's on.
And do you play tennis?
So watching Andy Murray, you haven't thought,
"Right, I must go and play tennis?"
Well, I've tried it but it doesn't work much.
Why does it not work?
Because I'm not good at hitting the ball.
Well, neither am I. But you wouldn't try to be like Andy Murray, then?
You tried it once.
But you've tried it and it's difficult?
For the girls,
life just seems to get in the way, and sport seems hard.
But Dawn isn't giving up.
As well as the special classes to help the family get healthier,
they attend the local Active Schools programme.
That's another exercise class out-of-school hours.
I was thinking that, you know,
what you really want for young girls is to be out and about, skipping...
-..with their pals.
-But you're driving them everywhere.
-Everything's a programme.
-You're in the car every night.
-When you were a girl...
I'd just nip out the front door and go and run.
Yeah. Aye, it's not as easy any more.
-I have no idea.
So everything now is you jump in the car,
take them to...
It's down to Mum and Dad's taxi, as they call it, usually,
to get them to where they've to go.
-To do a programme.
To follow someone else's structure.
They don't get out and just play.
It's a shame.
Good. Well done.
I feel quite sad about this.
I mean, Chloe and Rachel, fantastic kids,
Dawn's a wonderful mum,
but all the things that were available for me as a kid,
just playing in the street, they don't seem to be available.
Everything now is, jump in a car, go to a programme 15-20 minutes away.
It's just a completely different world.
Three, two, one, go!
These Active Schools sessions -
sport and activity outside of normal PE lessons -
are the core of the Scottish Government's approach
to getting children active.
Well done. Keep going.
Last year almost 300,000 children took part in one.
If I'm to understand what does and doesn't work,
I need to know more about them.
Yeah, well done!
This team just finished. Well done.
This is an Active Schools dance class in Kingussie.
Every school in Scotland has a programme like this,
promoting exercise outside of normal PE.
It's obvious that these kids are having a ball.
Primary children are involved, too.
But I can't help noticing that the children I'm seeing
seem a pretty sporty bunch.
We know more children than ever are doing these classes,
but we don't know whether any of them were previously kids
who didn't meet the government's healthy activity guidelines.
They're giving more kids more chances,
to take part in these Active Schools programmes,
their numbers are going up.
But nobody can show me the number that tells me that these kinds of
interventions take kids from being inactive to active.
Well over £200 million is being spent
on Active Schools over 15 years.
But there's potentially a basic problem -
that sports classes might just benefit sporty kids.
Sportscotland runs the Active Schools programme.
They're understandably proud more children than ever before are taking part in it.
Why don't they know if we're reaching the kids in danger,
the ones who aren't meeting the healthy activity guidelines?
They don't walk up and tell us that they're inactive.
What we see are people who are willing and want to engage.
So we will help them to engage in the sport,
in their own community, and I think that's important.
I'm confused a wee bit.
Why are we not measuring, as the national sports agency,
the efficacy of our programmes
that are supposed to be bringing people from inactive to active?
Why don't we measure that?
That's one of the measures.
But for me, all we can really do at that local level
is work with the people that are there.
So we have a baseline for every school,
for every community sport hub,
and then we look at the progress from there on in.
So the measures are very clear from our perspective.
-They're not clear.
-They are clear.
The measure might be clear as to who's doing the programmes,
but not as to whether they've been effective in changing people's behaviours. Not clear.
-To me it's not clear. Is it clear to you?
-It's clear to me.
When you look into it,
some of the numbers around elite sport spending are enormous.
In the last four years UK Sport has spent £350 million
on Olympic sports alone.
Sportscotland is in the middle of a spending cycle which will see it
spend £45 million on performance sport over four years.
And we wanted to know who benefits from this elite funding.
There's long been a suspicion that those on these programmes
are disproportionately from better off backgrounds.
But we asked Sportscotland for a demographic breakdown
of their elite performance athletes,
and they said they didn't have one.
So we decided to try and find out a bit more for ourselves.
That meant doing some maths.
We used publicly available information to work out
where they went to school.
We found data for over 70% of the over 500 athletes.
We decided to look at what kind of school it was.
Was it a private school?
And if it was a state school, was it one that served better off children?
We used free school meal entitlement to measure that.
Over 20% went to a fee-paying school
and almost 70% went to one of the best off 20% of state schools.
Those two groups represented almost 90% of the performance athletes.
It looks like elite sport IS for elites
when it comes to wealth as well as talent.
We've picked certain sports which are cycling, which are expensive.
They're private school sports, aren't they?
-Yes, they are. Yeah.
-What would you say, Leigh,
to the argument that if there is public money involved it should be
challenging the system of privilege
rather than buttressing it?
I don't think that there's any argument about that.
I think anything that comes from the public purse should have
generally wide public merit good,
and I'm not convinced that elite sport does that.
I'm not entirely sure that elite sport
is something that's accessible to the public in general
or indeed leads to benefits that are available to the public in general.
-Just privileged people.
We're working to try and get - in every sport -
a pathway which goes from school to community to performance,
if they have the talent and ambition, if they want to go there.
But do you think it's fair that we appear to be
spending money on, for want of a better word, more privileged kids?
Well, I think actually the spend and the resource
is actually in a pretty good place right now.
95% of the sport budget in Scotland is spent on school and community.
5% is spent on performance.
So I think the balance of it,
if you take the system, then I think we have,
as a society in Scotland, with the resources we have available,
we're in a good place with that.
Who's going to claim the gold medal here in Rio?
Up towards the line.
And the gold medal goes to Great Britain!
The Olympic champions again.
One of our great young athletes, Callum Skinner, winning gold in Rio.
He's a professional, and competition is a serious business.
But today we're having a bit of fun
on some unusual bikes.
The interesting thing is that cycling's fun...
-..but you compete at it.
Yeah. That's the thing, it kind of turned from a hobby into a career,
more or less.
And I'm extremely fortunate for that
because I do something I love every day. It's the best job ever.
-Do you still enjoy jumping on a bike?
I don't think you'd continue to do it unless you enjoyed it.
Callum wants kids to be able to experience the fun of cycling, too.
But he's worried about whether that's really possible for most of them.
I'd say, speaking from my own experience,
I was inspired by seeing Chris Hoy having successes
at the Commonwealth Games and the Olympic Games and things like that.
But I think the most important thing is
that if there is an element of inspiration
we need to capitalise on it as much as possible.
And one of the ways we can do that is with facilities
and more infrastructure.
I find it difficult to say to an eight-year-old child or something,
"Go out on your road bike, because it will all be fine,"
cos the harsh fact is that unless you're on a cycle path or a
segregated lane, it's not safe for a child to go out there on a road bike.
What it is safe for them to do is to go out on a closed facility,
but obviously, not everyone lives close to a closed facility,
whether that is a mountain bike, track or something similar.
So, you know, that's the thing.
I'm sure there is an element of inspiration out there,
but the thing we need to do is capitalise on it as much as possible
with infrastructure, with facilities.
What Callum is talking about is the key to the whole issue of activity.
How do you make getting moving easy and safe as part of everyday life?
That's what Professor Nanette Mutrie has spent her working life studying.
She's advised the Scottish Government.
I met up with her at Hampden,
where she'd been addressing a conference on physical activity.
The issue is that for adults,
it is quite a small percentage of
our population that get their activity from sport.
A much bigger percentage of our population get their activity
from walking or exercising
and incidental everyday activity,
which is the message we try to promote,
because you don't need facilities, you don't need skill,
you can just fit it into your lifestyle, and that's
the way I think we'll increase the population's level of activity.
So we need to go where people are, where it's easy for them to start,
and I would always say that is walking and active commuting.
Could it be this simple?
That walking could be the solution to our problem?
I've come for a walk here in Motherwell
with a group that's been going out once a week for ten years.
It's made a huge difference to all their lives.
I really love walking. I enjoy it very much.
It sort of helps you to get things into perspective, doesn't it?
You reflect as you walk, and the company's great as well.
You were telling me you are how old?
I'll be 84 next month.
And walking is what?
It's part of keeping me fit.
I look after my wife, she's 88,
so I've got to be able to look after her,
so that's part of the reason why I do it.
Just keep going.
You are. You're 84!
You just did exercise and walked a bit and now you're 84
and you look younger than me!
More Scots are walking than ever before.
This year, the Scottish Government is spending £1.4 million
promoting groups like this.
And finally, I've found an organisation
that asks participants whether they meet the healthy activity guidelines
before they start the programme.
Roughly a third reported to not meeting the physical activity guidelines.
We then do a six-month follow-up
and in that six-month follow-up,
approximately three quarters, 71%,
of those that reported to being inactive
are now reporting to being active.
So they've moved from a position of not meeting
the physical activity guidelines to meeting the guidelines.
It's so simple and so natural.
It's very different to the intensity of elite sport.
It almost seems like cheating.
The Chief Medical Officer has been a record as saying
that walking is a wonder drug or a miracle cure.
And when you walk you don't really think you're exercising, do you?
No, and that is the beauty of walking.
It is physical exercise,
physical activity through the back door.
This programme is relatively cheap and can show it works.
It makes me wonder if we've got the balance right between investing in
medals and less glamorous initiatives like this.
Politically, people have wanted to have medals.
The UK wants to be high up in the league tables, we've seen that.
If the same amount of money was spent on walking programmes,
changing infrastructure to promote safe streets, more cycling,
we would really make a substantial impact on increasing
the nation's physical activity.
We need more money for physical activity level promotion
that would make it more in balance with the elite level promotion.
And the graph would do that?
I would think so.
The person who has to strike that balance is Aileen Campbell,
the Public Health Minister.
So this works your upper back muscles.
Today, she's visiting an activity programme
that's funded as part of the Commonwealth Games legacy.
The total funding for this programme nationally is £800,000 a year.
Can she really justify spending millions chasing medals
rather than more on programmes like this?
I think there's a wider debate around the country as well about what want and expect.
People like seeing and they can be inspired by our athletes
performing really well,
but I'm acutely aware that we have,
despite an enormous amount of effort,
a fifth of the population who have remained inactive.
The active population have got more active.
But, you're right, we need to make sure we don't lose sight of the fact
that our inactive population hasn't increased
in the way we would have liked and we need to make sure
that our focus is on improving on that figure,
making sure we do things that we know work.
I wanted to challenge my own assumptions making this programme...
..and I wanted to do that by looking at the evidence.
So I'm glad the government wants to look at what works.
I've been hearing that the problem of inactivity
in this country is a huge one.
We need things that make the population healthier and more active
just in their day-to-day living.
And one thing we can say for sure is,
sport doesn't have all the answers.
As many of us think about New Year's resolutions to get fitter, John Beattie looks at why our elite sporting success isn't translating into a healthier population. Our top athletes are winning more medals than ever, but the general population isn't becoming more active.
The theory was that mega-events like the London Olympics and Glasgow Commonwealth Games would inspire a generation to become healthier. John hears from elite athletes and ordinary folk about why that hasn't happened and what it might take to get us off the sofa.