CCE’s corporate responsibility and sustainability manager Liz Lowe said the firm was responsible for helping people to become more active and improve their health and wellbeing.
“We recognise the importance of our role as a brand and a business to do more to encourage people to be active,” she said. “Sport is at the top end of this, but we are concentrating more on day-to-day activity.
“We all know if we are more active we have not only the physical benefits of burning more calories and being fitter, but also our mental wellbeing and our emotional wellbeing is a lot better.”
One in four people in England fail to achieve more than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, CCE claimed.
People are becoming more and more inactive in their daily lives and not burning off enough calories, Lowe claimed.
“We sit down all day, we use a car, we stand on escalators and everything is reducing [movement],” she added. “The fact is we just don’t move enough in our day-to-day life.”
The initiative – called ParkLives – aims to engage with 1M people by 2020 by investing £20M in “enjoyable” physical activity programmes.
It will initially be rolled out across 70 parks in Newcastle, Birmingham and the London borough of Newham.
CCE decided to focus on those three cities because they had a record of poor health, housed a lot of young people and were more likely to engage with the scheme, Lowe said.
Birmingham is ranked 132 out of 150 councils nationwide in terms of activity levels, Newham is 137th and Newcastle is 32nd.
ParkLives will run – in partnership with local authorities – for six months of the year throughout the spring and summer, and feature a timetable of free activities. Activities include zumba, hula hooping, roller skating, bike riding, tai chi, archery, canoeing and rounders.
“It’s less about park-fit military fitness and park run type of stuff and much more about engaging people – families and young people – in fun activities,” Lowe said.
The firm aims to add more cities to the project each year so that, by 2020, 12 cities have ParkLives schemes in operation.
Coke Zero sponsors the scheme, but parks will not feature drinks dispensers and instead focus solely on physical exercise.
Professor Greg Whyte from Liverpool John Moores University will lead an evaluation to see if the initiative has a positive impact on health and wellbeing in the local communities.
Whyte said he would robustly evaluate the initiative to ensure the programme delivered on its targets.
“As a nation I believe we need to get more physically active,” he added. “Research shows us that there are wide ranging benefits available by increasing the amount of exercise we do. Spending time outdoors, regularly moving and being active can only be a good thing.”
ParkLives launched in Birmingham on May 30 and will rolled out in Newcastle today (June 6) and in Newham on July 24.
Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill is an ambassador for the scheme and instructed young mothers in a ‘buggyfit’ class during its launch in Birmingham.
Meanwhile, the Food Manufacture Group will host an online seminar – Obesity and health: the big fat, sugar and salt debate – on Thursday July 3 to provide an independent interpretation of scientific evidence on the subject.