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News

Healthy Eating & Living in Prison (HELP)

Wednesday, August 15th 2018

With obesity at an all-time high, there has never been a greater urgency to address the detrimental effect poor food choices and lack of exercise have within our prison system.

One ex-prisoner said “At 6’ 1” in height, I went into prison a reasonably trim 12.5 stone (79 kg) with a healthy BMI.  I came out a few years later at around 16 stone (101 kg).  On average I think I gained over 16lbs per year”.

With many prisoners spending increased amounts of time in cell, it is alleged they are ordering unhealthy snacks from the canteen including crisps, a range of cheap biscuits, heavily sweetened fruit juices, bags of white sugar, chocolates, jam, long-life cake and various other types of processed or preserved foodstuffs all of which can lead to conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

What makes all this junk food into a highly toxic threat to health is the sheer lack of activity for many prisoners. In some establishments, a significant proportion of inmates are locked behind their cell doors for 22 or even 23 hours each day.  This was highlighted in a report by an ex-Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick: “Some men emerge only to take an occasional shower, to make a quick phone call or to queue to collect a tray of carb-rich food at mealtimes”.

Recognising this problem, RECOOP developed HELP (Healthy Eating & Living in Prison) and has successfully delivered the 6-week healthy weight and exercise programme which is appropriate for people of any age and ability whilst in a custodial setting.  Group-based sessions can be delivered weekly by prison or gym staff using the Weight Management & Exercise programme.

HELP introduces prisoners to safe and structured exercise, whilst encouraging and supporting them to achieve their goals. Whether it be increased fitness levels, weight loss or physical rehabilitation, participants are encouraged to engage at a pace they feel comfortable with.

The objective is to help people change their relationship with exercise and food for good, not just while they are in prison. The programme offers new ways of thinking about food and exercise, with supporting information which can be taken into the community on release.

For further information, please contact:  info@recoop.org.uk

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