IT'S hard not to feel sorry for Caroline Flint, who began her job yesterday as Britain's fitness minister. Not fitness for purpose minister, which might have meant something, but just the anti-flab minister. She has been given the task of creating a healthier nation in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics. Since a new report from the Department of Health has said that by 2010 one in three of British people will be obese it's clear that Ms Flint has quite a job on her hands. The connection to the Olympics is nothing more than a bit of silly PR. Anyone likely to compete in those Games will already be on the threshold of an unremitting training regime. Labour likes creating new ministers with special responsibilities. A few have been justified but Ms Flint's assignment is meaningless and is presumably designed to give the impression that something is being done when all it amounts to is exhortation. There is no secret about keeping fit. Avoiding junk food and taking regular exercise is the essential starting point but it needs a fairly strong will to do this and keep to it. Nagging from a mid-ranking minister will achieve little. The real government action needed is the provision of funds for more Olympic-size swimming pools and some restraint on schools who sell off their sports grounds for development. If children do not form the habit of healthy exercise at school they are unlikely to change their lifestyle later on.
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