Before you start commenting on this (but feel free anyway) I know that John Wayne, to whom the headline quote is attributed, never ever said it – although he is responsible for one of the funniest moments in a classic film as the guard stood underneath Jesus’ cross in ‘The Greatest Story ever told’ saying, in that unmistakable accent: “Surly this man was the Son of God.” The actual phrase to do with milk was part of a John Wayne impression by ‘funny man and friend of the stars’ Freddie Starr; Freddie is also responsible for Cagney’s “You Dirty Rat” misquote.
But it is supposed to be an intro to this blog all about new guidance from The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) that aims to get more people active. NICE are saying, quite correctly in my opinion, that our nation's lack of physical activity is a "silent epidemic."
Strategic and scientific adviser to the National Obesity Observatory, Dr Harry Rutter, said: "Across the population, lack of physical activity causes roughly the same level of ill health that smoking does. We all face barriers in changing our lifestyles and many of us feel we don't have the time or the inclination to add regular physical activity into our lives. But walking and cycling to work, to school, to the shops or elsewhere can make a huge difference."
"We have a silent epidemic of lack of physical activity and here we have a wonderful opportunity to try and do something about it."
These comments were backed up by a professor of exercise at Edinburgh University quoted in the Daily Telegraph, said: 'In the past decade we have lost about 80 miles per person per year in terms of walking for transport.' She continued by advising that action did need to be taken as being inactive was the fourth leading cause of premature deaths around the world, and the problem was getting worse.
According to the professor, in 1998 we all walked around 250 miles a year; in 2008 that had dropped to 170miles. So all-in-all I can understand the advice and concerns that they have. But perhaps the winter isn’t the best time to advise this, especially with flooding as an extra incentive to not go out into the fresh air? The guidance states that walking and cycling should become the norm for short journeys and should be encouraged in local communities, with adults encouraged to do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week, in bouts of 10 minutes or more.
It also suggests that local communities should try and do their own schemes to encourage more people to cycle and walk, including "car free days" or cycle-hire schemes – like the famous (or should that be ‘infamous’) Boris Bike initiative in London. And they even suggested that “Families should consider selling their car to end the ‘bad habit’ of using it for trips of less than a mile.”
But the biggest bugbear likely to annoy the motorist is that they have suggested that parking charges should be increased to encourage more people to walk – as if they are not high enough already!
Annoyed with this, the chief executive of the Tax Payer's Alliance, Matthew Sinclair, said that the recommendations showed that NICE was out of touch with struggling families: "Things are tough enough for taxpayers already without meddling health bureaucrats trying to make parking more expensive. For more people using the car is a necessity, not a luxury.
"Parking charges damage the high street, place an unnecessary burden on struggling businesses and make life harder for households just trying to make ends meet. NICE's boneheaded attempts to interfere demonstrate just how out of touch they are with the pressures faced by hard-pressed families.'
Do you get the feeling that he isn’t too keen on NICE?
The thing is that NICE don’t really help themselves. They are a bit like my teenage daughter; talking before they have engaged their brain even though they are well-meaning and may have a good idea somewhere in their statement.
In 2010, NICE produced guidelines saying all five-year-olds should be taught about sex and contraception. And later that year, it urged schools to hold antenatal classes for teenage mothers.
And other times they don’t do things quickly enough, especially when it comes to deciding which drugs should be used on the NHS. Its lengthy decision-making process has led to some drugs being held up in the system for up to nine years, and it has also been accused of banning life-extending cancer treatments.
I am probably with Mathew Sinclair on this one.