COUCH potatoes are costing Southend £5million a year, it has been revealed.

The costs of illnesses caused by physical inactivity to areas across the country was broken down by Sport England.

In Southend, spending is more than £3million per 100,000 population, with obesity caused by inactivity causing a range of diseases.

For example, coronary heart disease caused by lack of physical activity costs £4,205,000 and diabetes £423,671.

But help is at hand to tackle the problem.

Bob Collins, 62, from Southend, decided to get fit after discovering his body mass index was “through the roof”. He started a fitness programme with Southend Council’s Get Healthy Hub. He was offered 12 weeks of subsidised sessions at Southend Leisure and Tennis Centre and 12 weeks of public health-funded weight management sessions.

The retired builder said: “It was fantastic to be given this opportunity.

“Overeating is a vicious circle and I needed a push to change my lifestyle.

“I found the discussion groups at the weight-management sessions very useful and I have also benefited from the advice of a personal trainer.”

Westcliff GP Dr Krishna Chaturvedi, said: “Our practice was one of the seven practices which took part in a pilot scheme run by Southend Council. Lack of physical activity or self-management is not only a burden on GP attendances but the entire health economy.”

In a report, Southend councillor James Moyies, who was responsible for social care until May, said: “I was concerned to learn that almost a third of adults in Southend are classed as “physically inactive”.

“In addition to the impact on health of individuals, it is estimated that every year the health-related costs associated with low levels of physical activity in the borough are about £5million.”