View from the OIA

One of the absolutely crucial roles that the OIA plays is that of joining up agendas – making positive connections between our industry, adjacent sectors and influential politicians. More importantly, we don’t stop at simply developing the relationships, but always focus on activating those connections for the benefit of all. Sometimes that manifests itself behind the scenes and in the corridors and committee rooms of Westminster, working with partners to influence policy and public investment decisions that can have a profound impact in the long term. On other occasions, opportunities present themselves to work with partners on more public-facing initiatives, with shared themes or goals that support outdoor participation campaigns such as #itsgreatoutthere and #GetOutside.

I have recently been working on a project that very much falls into the latter category, which will go live in the near future. If you follow UK politics closely, you may well be aware that Tom Watson MP, deputy leader of the Labour Party, has transformed his lifestyle in recent years and successfully reversed a type 2 diabetes diagnosis through a combination of being more active and changing his diet. During my time representing our sector in Westminster, I have got to know Tom and have been hugely impressed by what he has achieved in terms of his health. Now, together we have developed a new initiative for Tom to launch called ‘Adventures 4 Health’, that we hope will inspire many more people to get active for better health.

This year, Adventures 4 Health will see Tom and I tackle four different challenges – climbing, canoeing, cycling and swimming – to highlight the range of options available to anyone who wants to improve their health by getting active. We’ll be working with other partner organisations throughout and will collectively use Tom’s personal story and his high-profile status to promote participation to the general public.

Adventures 4 Health will kick off very soon when we climb Snowdon on 18th May, supported by the National Mountain Training Centre and British Mountaineering Council (BMC). This first event will showcase how easily accessible outdoor activities can play a major role in improving physical and mental wellbeing. It’s worth remembering that while Tom has genuinely transformed his lifestyle, Snowdon still represents a significant challenge for him. Of course, the climb will also be a great PR moment for our sector.

As the year progresses, I will join Tom on his other Adventures 4 Health challenges, which will include canoeing a section of Birmingham & Black Country Trails in July, cycling the Prudential RideLondon road sportive in August, and open water swimming at the Children With Cancer UK Swim Serpentine festival in Hyde Park in September.

Working closely with Tom’s office and on behalf of the OIA, I am coordinating Adventures 4 Health, but the initiative is only possible because of the connections and partnerships that I mentioned above, in this case with London Marathon Events, the Sport & Recreation Alliance, British Canoeing, British Cycling and the British Mountaineering Council.

Tom’s personal motivation is best articulated in his own words: “I realise that my circumstances and position provide me with the resources to take action, but it all had to start with me making that decision to change. Through Adventures 4 Health, I want to show other people what is possible as an individual and how easy it is to access so many different activities, in every part of the country.

“We face a growing inactivity epidemic in the UK and it’s killing people, but it doesn’t have to be this way and I am really pleased to be working with the Outdoor Industries Association on this positive project to promote participation. It’s no exaggeration to state that my life has been completely transformed in recent years and I hope that sharing my experience on these four events will encourage others to set off along their own path towards healthier, more active lives.”

These are powerful messages that have the potential to resonate far and wide and highlight the hugely positive role that the outdoors (and our members) can play in improving the physical and mental wellbeing of the UK population. Full details of the project will be publicised in the near future and you will be able to follow our progress on Twitter at @OIAUKCEO, @Tom_Watson and #Adventures4Health.

Andrew Denton,
Outdoor Industries Association.