Local Exercise Action Pilot

"Active Living" Map

WCC members helped design the ‘Active Living’ map, which was launched in King George’s Park on 19th April 2005. The map is designed to encourage people to make physical activity part of their day, by giving info on local opportunities for being physically active in the borough of Wandsworth. Lots of information on cycling in Wandsworth is shown, so please use them to encourage friends, relatives, colleagues and neighbours to consider cycling as a great way of improving health and wellbeing.

See our press release for more information about the map.

If you know of any group that would make good use of copies of the Active Living map, please contact us with details of how many copies are needed, together with full contact details.

Read more about Trevor’s experience of taking up cycling again via LEAP.

Cycling, Moi? – Trevor Wright

On the 23rd April 2004, I was getting myself ready to meet friends in town for an afternoon of the drink, smoking, fast food, gossip and fun. As I got myself into gear to leave my humble abode, little did I realise that by nightfall I was going to be fast-tracked through St George’s A&E to the Coronary Care Unit, to a change in lifestyle, thinking and exercise. Everyone at St G’s was absolutely brilliant helping me through a heart attack.

I was in hospital for five days. While there, I met the Cardiac Rehab Sister and a follow-up appointment was arranged to discuss follow-up care and, eventually, rehabilitation to full health. With my reluctant partner and myself, we discussed possible ways forward, including the hospital’s Rehab course – designed to help make vital changes in lifestyle, thinking and diet. Options were talked through and cycling came up in the discussion. I’d always wanted to start cycling again. The last time I had been on a bike was 30 years previously… fast forward to cycling in London in 2004. My partner remarked "Yeah, right, you cycle? You need a cab to get 200 yards to the bus stop".

But I digress. Just 3 days later, I received offers of one-to-one cycle training via LEAP. My trainer showed me how to set the bike up to my body shape, what pressure to use in the tyres, and took me out my the first bike ride for years. We used Tooting Bec Common for the initial ride, launching me into a new life based around diet and exercise to save my heart from further damage.

Around that difficult time – I was still only starting to come to terms with my heart attack, and prone to severe angina attacks – I discovered the existence of LCC (London Cycling Campaign) and its local group, Wandsworth Cycling Campaign: what a god send. Because I was in and out of St George’s faster than a fiddler’s elbow, I was not able to have much training. In between admissions, however, I was able to cycle around the Common. It was the only place I could cycle at the time, as it was also the only place I felt safe. But things were about to change for the better.

The first time out on the road was to (1) to find the courage to get on the bike and (2) find a way to King George’s Park. I wanted to get away from Tooting Bec Common. I desperately wanted to go on September 11th’s Trailblaze Ride using the Wandle Trail, and the only way I was going to do it was to get on the road. It wasn’t until I neared Earlsfield that I realised that I did have a little confidence but, at the same time, was very scared. I was fighting the urge to turn tail, walk to Earlsfield Station and go home. However, on the Trailblaze, Susie, Mike and Mary Ann took me under their collective wing and helped me build on the little confidence I’d found and listened to my garbled mumbling. I thoroughly enjoyed being out that day riding with them and with lots of other people from all over the UK.

Well, what have I been up to? I’m lucky I have plenty of free time and don’t have to commute or work (yet) so am making the most of being footloose and free. I pick a destination or a starting place and either cycle part or all of the way and then aim my bike for home. My last couple of rides have included Willesden Junction to Victoria via the Grand Union Canal and Little Venice. I’ve also ridden from King’s Cross Thameslink, along the Euston Road (I know I’m mad but I enjoyed the rush of adrenaline) to Regents Park then back via the side streets to Victoria. I’m wondering where I should ride to tomorrow.

The future? More of the same. Plus joining, enjoying and having the thrill of being out and about on some of the organised rides with WCC. Looking forward to better health, enjoying life, courtesy of two wheels.

Aims & Objectives

The Local Exercise Action Pilot (LEAP) project in Wandsworth aims to promote physical activity in an area of recognised deprivation. Specifically, its aims are:

  • to promote moderate activity among sedentary and ‘at risk’ groups.
  • to create an integrated programme, taking advantage of the local environment and of existing initiatives. Structured exercise initiatives in the borough already have a strong reputation.
  • to address a recognised weakness in the promotion of daily physical activity.
  • to provide an over-arching community physical activity campaign.
  • to give residents a range of high quality physical activity options.

The targeted wards are: Queenstown, St Mary’s Park, Latchmere, Fairfield, Earlsfield, Southfields, and Tooting. These have been chosen because they are relatively deprived on a number of key health/social indices. They also form geographic ‘corridors’ along the Rivers Thames and Wandle. Colloquially, the area targeted is known as the ‘Wandsworth Banana’. It is hoped that there will also be a spill-over effect into neighbouring wards.

LEAP’s objectives reflect its multi-faceted approach to promoting physical activity in Wandsworth:

  • to pilot a mainstream physical activity service in 8 local surgeries. A trained professional will offer advice to selected sedentary patients.
  • to develop a healthy living map for residents. This will raise people’s awareness of local physical activity choices.
  • to run a Wandsworth Physical Activity Campaign over two summers.
  • to promote walking and cycling, taking advantage of the measures being carried out around the Rivers Wandle and Thames.
  • to deliver a peer physical activity mentoring project. This will provide support and training for volunteers to make physical activity home visits to older people.

For more information, visit the Wandsworth LEAP website: http://www.wandsworthpct.nhs.uk/health/LEAP.

Partner Organisations

Wandsworth Primary Care Trust is the lead organisation in LEAP. Other partners are Wandsworth Council, Age Concern Wandsworth, Wandsworth Cycling Campaign, Sustrans (Sustainable Transport), and Groundwork Merton.

The LEAP project co-ordinator takes up post at Wandsworth Primary Care Trust in December 2003, and the project launches formally in January 2004.


Wandsworth is one of only nine places in the country to be awarded Department of Health funding for a LEAP programme. They have allocated £200k to the project, with an additional £45k from Wandsworth Primary Care Trust.

Why is the NHS concerned about how physically active people are? The NHS Plan published by the Department of Health in 2001, included the broad objective ‘to improve health’, and specifically to increase physical activity and tackle obesity, especially amongst the less well-off. The Department of Health has also published several ‘National Service Frameworks’ relevant to physical activity. The frameworks relating to coronary heart disease, diabetes, mental health promotion and older people are particularly significant. Physical activity provides many benefits to an individual’s health: protection against heart disease, stroke and diabetes, as well as reducing the risk of dying from cancer. Amongst cancers, for reasons that aren’t clear, the strongest evidence exists for colon cancer, where physical activity is estimated to reduce the risk by 40-50%.

Nationally, we aren’t active enough. One consequence is that Britain now ranks second on the OECD list for the percentage of the population classified as obese. (The USA is first.) Levels of obesity in England have tripled in the last 20 years, with 1 in 5 adults in England now clinically obese. On average, obesity shortens a person’s life by 9 years. As well as the obvious human costs, there are huge direct costs to the NHS and to the economy generally.

Active Travel

‘The way we travel is making us a less healthy nation’ (A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone. Department for Transport, 1998.)

A major strand in LEAP is to promote ‘active travel’. ‘Active travel’ simply means, for a particular journey, choosing a mode of transport which involves physical activity. This primarily means walking and cycling. But it needn’t be an ‘all or nothing’ approach. Active travel can mean simple things like getting off the bus one stop earlier and walking the extra 300 yards. The best way to encourage people to take exercise is to build physical activity into their daily routine. ‘Active travel’ provides an ideal way of doing this. Most of us have regular journeys, such as our daily commute to work, where we have some choice over how we travel. By contrast, our leisure time (and motivation) are limited.

For more information on active travel, contact Sustrans via their website: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ or their information line: 0117 929 0888 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5pm).

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