Culture and leisure services and the access to them are key drivers which offer healthier lifestyles, according to a leading academic who believes lockdown weight gain is one of the biggest health issues coming out of the pandemic.

Professor Naveed Sattar, of University of Glasgow 's Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, said city services including museums and leisure facilities are crucial to allowing people to be active and widen their horizons.

His comments come at a time when Glasgow Life, the arms-length council organisation which runs the services, lost £38m due to the pandemic and its estimated income for 2020/21 is £6.4million. An agreed council funding deal will see Glasgow Life receive a guaranteed £100m for the next four years to open 90 out of its 171 venues. Without further funding, they say they cannot reopen any more venues. Around 500 jobs will go at the organisation over a five year period.

It is why The Herald is leading A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign calling for the city’s venues and treasures to be funded appropriately and for both the Scottish and UK governments to come together to deliver a new funding plan for Glasgow’s culture and leisure services.

The Herald: Flagship venues, such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, are run by Glasgow LifeFlagship venues, such as Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, are run by Glasgow Life

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Professor Sattar, who is due to publish a report on obesity as a risk factor for severe Covid-19, said: "While A big health issue going forward is long covid, population wide changes in weight gain is starting to emerge strongly.

"I see it in our clinics and when we speak to people and one of the biggest drivers for that is people’s activity levels have plummeted because working from home means they are not having that regular commute.

"We have all massively underestimated how much commuting people did even if they drove in a car – going to work you are parking the car and they might walk 10 minutes dropping it off and walking back, you are walking around work. I have had patients who have just basically sat on the computer all day for work, and some individuals whose average step count were around 1000 per day which is nothing, the equivalent of 10 minutes walking a day and previously would have been doing 6000 or 7000 without even thinking about it.

"It is a major problem because if the population on average is gaining one or two kilograms, which might not seem a lot, but it is probably driven by a sub population that has put on half a stone that is going to lead to more diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and lung disease. It is going to accelerate many of the conditions that obesity is associated with and that will place even greater burden on the NHS where a lot of people who have chronic illnesses who haven’t presented because of the pandemic."

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His report states that evidence from multiple sources now links morbid obesity to risk for severe Covid-19 outcomes. Many conditions associated with adverse Covid-19 outcomes, such as type 2 diabetes and chronic lung disease, are also strongly linked to excess obesity.

Professor Sattar added: "Changes in life circumstances is accelerating weight gain in many in the population. All of these facts means that governments around the world, and particularly in countries where obesity levels are already high, need to prioritise obesity prevention and management efforts."

Our A Fair Deal for Glasgow campaign is calling for both UK and Scottish Governments to agree to a new way of funding for culture and leisure to the benefit of Glasgow citizens and for the city's venues and treasures of national significance to be funded appropriately.

The Herald: Kelvinhall in the city's west endKelvinhall in the city's west end

Professor Sattar added: "Any initiatives that allows people to be more active, to be outside and find other things to occupy their mind, is welcome. Culture and leisure are vehicles to help people to get out the door, walk AND enjoy new things in new, fresh environments. People have got to enjoy their lives - culture and leisure is part of enjoying their lives - and helping them to be more physically active.

"We need to, particularly in the less affluent areas of our society, to engage and help people find the things that are going to make their lives a bit more enjoyable, TO HELP widen horizons.

"Going to a museum walking around a museum for an hour that is a lot of steps. You have to get to the museum, walk around it, looking at new things – it is a win win.

"The question policy makers might ask is where do we best put the money in. Is it in an extra 1000 more nurses and doctors where there is real suffering in the NHS or is it in the prevention side? There are not easy questions to answer but we need to much more in prevention."