It’s National Fitness Day 2014! OK, so it might not be quite as exciting as Christmas Day but I do believe that it is very significant – now more than ever, which is why I’m delighted WatchFit has given me this amazing platform.

In recent weeks we’ve heard some quite harrowing facts and figures relating to childhood obesity as well as serious weight issues in young women. In the UK, one in three children under 15 is overweight and GPs are reporting an obesity crisis stating that they’re treating kids for the kind of diabetes previously associated with overweight adults in middle to later age.

Leading medical figures have also reported that we could be into a generation of children whose physical condition and health is such that they could die before their parents. This is horrendous.

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Then we look to the next age group up and discover one 1 in 4 young women (mothers to be or already young mothers) in the UK are overweight to an immediate health damaging level. This is the worst in Western Europe.

What are the reasons? I’m sure it is a combination of factors but at the forefront must be the prevalence of cheap, processed fast food and ready meals, combined with a whole recreational lifestyle that is fundamentally based on sitting down indoors for hour after hour day after day. These two factors in tandem are enough to send health graphs through the floor.

But at the other end of the scale the fit are getting fitter. Gym figures are strong, participation in sports is healthy, the fitness and health industry as a whole in the UK is worth staggering amounts. Yet whilst the fit get fitter, the fat get fatter and we somehow have to narrow the gap between the two extremes.

Fitness has broadly shaped my whole life. I was active and arty from a young age; and a member of the National Youth Theatre, National Youth Dance Company, Yorkshire Youth Orchestra and North of England Gymnastics Champion for several years and GB squad member. I then went onto a couple of London’s foremost dance schools. And it wasn’t long before

I found myself in front of 8,000 people for every Gladiators recording and on 15 million TV sets every weekend. The show became a phenomenon and we realised we were in an amazing position to be role models and spread positive healthy messages and influence several generations all at once – particularly the children.

We filmed intensively for six weeks a year, but we were Gladiators 365 days a year, popping up on other TV shows, doing lots of public appearances, featuring in the press frequently and starring in panto. We had to be aware of the power of our image, popularity and ability to influence for the better. It was an amazingly privileged position to be in.

Diane Jet Youdale2Image by John Dietrich

A couple of decades on from those heady days people still come up to me, many of them now in their 30’s, and are kind enough to say what an impact we had on them and how they started off wanting to be like a Gladiator, the good habits were ingrained early and then they just carried on training and looking after themselves.

We were in the right place at the right time and managed to mobilise a generation of kids whilst entertaining the whole family and maybe even inspiring a few adults along the way too.

It’s way too easy to take health and mobility for granted. Youth tend to just ‘get away with it’ in the belief that they will always be fine, whilst adults have already learned the harsh truth and can be so far gone with their weight and fitness issues that the road back just looks too long and arduous to contemplate.

But that journey from carefree kid, eating rubbish, playing video games and starting to smoke, to the desperately unhealthy de-motivated adult is completed in just the blink of an eye.

We needn’t wait for TV based role models or high profile sportspeople to provide the encouragement, motivation and inspiration, we are all role models in our way and should do what we can to try and make a difference. If we keep looking to the next person to take the helm and make the difference, then nothing is going to change anytime soon.

I love what WatchFit is doing – providing huge amounts of free educational, instructional and motivational information all supplied by approved experts and authorities from around the world. And the downloadable plans to mobiles are an amazing way of having great proven workouts and nutritional programmes in the palm of your hand for daily guidance.

This kind of technology and initiative was a science fiction dream when I was doing Gladiators! We must harness it to help spread the word and we need to do our best to make sure the most needy people are discovering and utilising it as well as the already sporty, fit and health conscious.

National Fitness Day is a great way of hitting the nation’s conscience and delivering a healthy message, but we must ensure that, to some degree, every day is a fitness day.

Diane Youdale is remembered by millions as ‘Jet’ from Gladiators. She is also a dance professional and choreographer, fitness professional and a practising psychotherapist who can regularly be seen in the analysts chair on Big Brother’s Bit on the Side.

Visit www.dianeyoudale.co.uk

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