The world knows us a pasty- faced nation with a diet of pie, beers and chips, but exactly how fit can the average Scot expect to be as we approach the millennium, asks Stephen Naysmith.

he Scot is a sorry beast, we’re led to believe. Just as Norway’s singers are forever linked with the words ‘nul points’. Scotland walks away with the title ‘siek man of Europe’. And while a diet of deep-fried Mars Bars and pizzas may be good fodder for stand-ups, it’s bad news for the nation’s health. Cancer and heart disease are each responsible for 15,000 deaths a year in Scotland.

‘There’s a strong sense of fatalism in Scotland.’ comments Martin

Raymond ofthe Health Education Board For Scotland (HEBS). ‘People seem to think because you’re born here you’ll die early. so you might as well have a glass of whisky and a smoke.’

In a bid to change such kamikaze thinking. HEBS is currently campaigning with the etlifying slogan: ‘You can help save a life your own’. The aim. says Raymond. is to remind Scots that the three major killers coronary heart disease, strokes and cancer —— are preventable.

The good news is that in some areas Scots do appear to be getting fitter. The latest Scottish Office Annual Report reveals that while half of all Scottish men smoked in 1975. this had dropped to less than a third by 1994. Women too have been quitting the weed. While 44 per cent smoked twenty years ago, today that figure has fallen to 29 per cent.

The drop in smoking is encouraging. says Raymond. but there’s still room for improvement where Scotland’s health is concerned. ‘The number of overweight people in the country is increasing quite seriously,’ he points out. ‘That is linked to bad eating patterns and little exercise.’

Not everything you hear about Scottish nutrition is true. however —just most of it. Our diet is actually no more fat-saturated than our neighbours’. but consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables is the lowest in the UK. A HEBS survey carried out last March asked a cross section of Scots what they’d eaten the day before. A staggering 32 per cent had eaten no

The hectoring campaigns oi the past, demanding that people engage in

vigorous sports, are now

seen as misguided.

fruit. and 30 per cent no vegetables.

Carol Bryce, a HEBS diet and nutrition specialist believes the expense of fresh produce and the lack of open air markets in Scotland are major factors in the nation’s apparent distaste for fruit and veg. ‘A lot of corner shops don’t have the most appetising stock,’ she says. ‘lt is no use people deciding to eat more healthily. if healthy alternatives are not available.’

The warning that we are becoming a nation of fatties is salutary, especially after the n a ‘v indulgences ofthe festive season. ' " The hectoring campaigns of the past, demanding that people engage in vigorous sports however. are now seen as misguided.

Now the emphasis is on regular. moderate exercise. A HEBS TV campaign last year used ex-Scotland rugby international Gavin Hastings to drive home the message that you don’t have to kill yourself with exercise to get fit. ‘Walk about a bit.’ suggested a chummy Hastings as he strolled through the park. Walking a mile uses as much energy as running the same distance. and half an hour of gentle exercise most days a week can make a big difference, HEBS claims.

Another development aimed at change is a scheme where doctors can prescribe exercise in place of medicine. The most recent experiment, in the Scottish Borders.

concentrated on patients who were virtually inactive.

Results were mixed. The majority of those who returned questionnaires were taking more exercise. feeling more energetic and less stressed, sleeping better or losing weight. Many were taking fewer prescription drugs. Less encouraging is the fact that only 82 out of l52 patients returned for a second consultation.

HEBS claims the Gavin Hastings campaign was well received and there is evidence that people do now realise the benefits of even small increases in levels of activity. But change isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take time before lifestyle improvements have a lasting


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The picture at bad health: HEBS recent anti-smoking campaign appears to be hitting borne

effect on Scotland’s dreadful health record. The truth, as health bodies have realised, is that we have to want to change. The authorities are primarin concerned with making people aware of what they can achieve after that, it’s

up to the individual.

liieilne: HEBS latest health campaign ‘You can help save a lite - your own’

cent increase. exercise reduce risks. make a diiierence.

can be preventative.

Where we’re at

0 Lite expectancy is increasing by two months every year. Girls born now can expect to "vote 77 and- boys to 72. this is eight years longer on average than ior those born in the 1950s.

0 Smoking in Scotland has dropped dramatically over the last twenty narrow both sexes, but willie lull. cancer amongst men has dropped sixteen per cent in the last ten women haveseen a

o coronary heart disease is still Scotland's number one killer. llot smoking and increasing physical

0 cancer is the second biggest threat. Cutting down on drinking, quitting smoking and Improving diet can - Strokes killed 4,909 women and 2,775 men in 1994. Again, giving op‘clgarettesand taking exercise

0 Thirty-seven per cent oi Scottish men and thirty-tour per cent oi women still take no regular exercise.

100,000 Scots regularly drink barminl levels oi alcohol. Source: Scottish Annual Report 1996 and Health Education Board For, Scotland.

The List 1023' Jan 1997 27