THE county’s most inactive people will be given motivational phone calls encouraging them to exercise in a new scheme costing more than £480,000.

People can be referred by their GP or can refer themselves to the new scheme run by Oxfordshire Sports Partnership (OSP).

They will then receive phone calls to help boost their motivation and confidence, health bosses say.

It is the latest attempt to battle the bulge after figures unveiled last month showed six in 10 county residents are overweight or obese.

Table tennis, walking and exercise for mums with buggies are among sessions being targeted at people who do no regular exercise.

And a new pilot is giving professionals like GPs £30 for each person they refer who makes “positive changes” within 12 weeks.

The aim is that they would start doing some form of exercise by the end of that period.

OSP managing director Chris Freeman said the drive “will target the county’s most inactive people”.

He said: “We have trained motivational interviewers who will be spending time on the phone on a one-to-one basis, helping increase people’s motivation and confidence to do more.”

The four interviewers will offer a “guiding approach rather than a telling approach”, the partnership said, to “help the person find their own solutions to changing their behaviour”.

The frequency and content of the phone calls has not yet been revealed. So far 45 people have been referred to the scheme which is costing £482,559 and is funded by a National Lottery grant from Sport England.

It’s part of the county’s GO Active sports scheme set up in 2009 to help more than 3,000 get fit. Last month, the Oxford Mail revealed NHS and council bosses spent about £700,000 sending more than 12,000 overweight and obese residents to diet groups.

Dr Paul Roblin, chief executive of the British Medical Association’s Oxfordshire local medical committee, backed the new scheme. But he questioned if GPs should be paid for referrals, adding: “If a patient wants to refer themselves, that is a test of their motivation to deal with the problem.”

Taking part in one element of the new scheme – for women with pushchairs – were two first-time mums keen to get active again.

Littlemore cleaner Elizabeth Armstrong, 29, mum to Toby, seven months, said: “It is a good way to exercise as well as involving Toby.”

Iffley’s Victoria Parry, 35, mum to Rhiannon, six months, said she got regular exercise in her manager’s role at Oxford’s Ann Summers shop, to which she plans to return in July.

She said: “Working in a shop is hard work. Having stopped, you miss being active.”

Sport England found the number of Oxfordshire people exercising at least three times a week rose from 26 per cent to 30 per cent from 2008 to 2013.

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