The Ministry for Health and Care has announced the launch of the new Pedal Ready initiative within local schools which is based on the UK National Standards for cycling training.

This first cycling course, held on Monday, saw eleven St. Joseph’s School, Year 6 students participate in Level 1 training, focussing on teaching the basic skills of balance and riding a bicycle safely. The training team consisted of four instructors, two of whom were Trainer Instructors overseeing the whole initiative. All eleven participants successfully completed and passed Level 1.  Similar training will now be carried out throughout other schools in Gibraltar.

Pedal ready is part of the Government's commitment to improve the health of the nation through health promotion and seeking healthier lifestyles in the community. The scheme aims to provide children and adults with the necessary skills to be able to adopt healthier lifestyles safely, which will help increase activity levels.

Lack of exercise and activity is unfortunately common in Gibraltar leading to an increase in preventable risk factors that are associated with common serious illnesses including, but not limited to, diabetes and heart disease.

As a population, the incidence of obesity, and in particular childhood obesity, is growing to epidemic proportions, following trends already seen in similar modern, Western societies. With increased weight, the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels leading to heart disease, and high blood glucose leading to diabetes, are also significantly increased. These key risk factors, coupled with an unbalanced, high fat, salt and sugar diet, increase the risk of many complications that can affect our health and wellbeing as a population.

Pedal Ready follows on from the very successful Cycling Proficiency courses held by the Royal Gibraltar Police for over 40 years, providing school children with the skills to be able to ride a bicycle safely. Pedal Ready aims to target people interested in learning to ride a bicycle for pleasure, and also to encourage bicycle use as an alternative, and perhaps one day soon, preferred mode of travel.

There is no better way to help encourage activity as part of a healthy lifestyle than to empower children and pave the way to the Government’s policies of a Green Gibraltar and a Child Friendly City.

The Ministry for Health and Care will be working closely with the Ministries responsible for Education, Technical Services, Traffic and Transport and the Environment to ensure that we are collectively able to positively influence the health of Gibraltar with better training, education, infrastructure and facilities available to all.

Minister for Health and Care, The Honourable Paul Balban said, “I am delighted to see Pedal Ready launched in the Community. This is the first, but a hugely important step, to help encourage greater levels activity in the population. The aim will be to focus on a broad range of activities, which will also include walking, to appeal to as many people as possible. To me this represents the next and perhaps most rewarding chapter of healthcare in Gibraltar, and I am very proud to be at the forefront of these changes. I would like to thank the Pedal Ready team of instructors for their enthusiasm and support on this very important project.

Acting Medical Director, Dr Krishna Rawal said, “Pedal Ready is a wonderful start to a new phase in care for our community. I am working closely with Minister Balban to explore and develop initiatives which will support our medical teams to fundamentally change medical services to be more focussed on encouraging health and enjoying long, active and healthy lives. In many cases it may be possible, with medical guidance, to reduce or even stop some medications which are treating the effects on the body of an inactive life and poor diet.

Director of Public Health, Dr Sohail Bhatti said, “The magic medicine that can treat nearly all chronic diseases is exercise. Fun exercise such as cycling sets a child up for an adult life full of activity and inoculates against the harms in later life of indolence, obesity and hence heart disease, diabetes, and even depression. I welcome this initiative and the leadership shown by the Minister, and also the new thinking by Government in taking a cross sectoral approach to improving the health of the nation."