Any plan to try and get the people of Swindon to take more exercise - or simply be more active - must motivate people to do so.

That’s what Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member Brian Ford told fellow members of the borough’s health and wellbeing board when it heard about the updated Get Swindon Active strategy.

Presented by public health officer Penny Marno, the strategy says people in Swindon are on average less active than those in neighbouring authority areas.

In the south west, Swindon is 10th out of 15 authorities with 69 per cent of its adults classified as active – taking exercise or being physically active for more than 150 minutes a week.

On the other hand, Swindon is second out of 15 in statistically similar authorities, and has more active adults than the English national average.

Ms Marno said the plan was to make it easier for people to embed physical activity into their everyday lives.

The strategy says: “Research continues to highlight the need to tackle emotional barriers which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Enjoyment, fun and belonging are considered valuable enablers in the implementation, engagement, and long-term maintenance of physical activity.

“People report a variety of barriers to being active. These include lack of time, cost of being active, not being ‘sporty’, too tired to be active and safety fears such as women walking or jogging on their own, particularly in parks;  and the fear of cycling on busy roads.

The strategy aims to use both traditional ways of exercise, such as sports clubs, as well as initiatives like Beat the Street, and help people make travel choices to use activity, and to influence other areas of policy, such as planning and development, to encourage daily activity.

Coun Ford said encouragement was key: “People need to want to be active. That’s the key to this you can take a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

“Whatever we do needs to be good for those people who want to do it. We will all do something we want to do rather than something we are pushed to do.”

His cabinet colleague Cathy Martyn, who holds the portfolio for housing and health inequalities said: “We need to be able to tell residents what’s in it for them. For example, if they are more active they will be more healthy and if they are walking and cycling they can be saving the cost of fuel.

"Money can be a source of huge anxiety but saving it can be a motivation and the strategy can play on things like that.”

The board noted the contents of the strategy.