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Growing physical inactivity pandemic laid bare by ukactive report

Turning the tide of inactivityFresh analysis of official Government data and FOI-obtained figures show depth of challenge to 'turn the tide of physical inactivity'

ukactive's new report Turning the tide of inactivity is the first ever borough by borough analysis of increasing levels of physical inactivity across England, and the steps being taken to combat it.

Using new FOI data and fresh data analysis, ukactive has investigated the biggest causes of inactivity and the interventions which are being effective in 'turning the tide of inactivity'. The report reveals:

  • In the most deprived areas in England, one in three people fail to raise their heartbeat for 30 minutes per week across a month, even in separate ten-minute bursts. This number decreases to one in four in the least deprived areas.
  • The impact of this inactivity pandemic: where inactivity levels are the highest, premature mortality rates are also the highest. In the 15 most inactive local authorities, there is an average of 342 premature deaths per 100,000 people per year, compared with 242 in the least inactive.
  • Green spaces, often touted as the holy grail of increasing activity by lobbyists, actually showed no significant correlation with levels of inactivity in the analysis. The findings suggest that it is the programming, promotion and utilisation of green space that is key, rather than the volume that is available to local people.
  • Areas with the highest levels of inactivity have a third fewer leisure facilities per person compared with areas of low inactivity. However, the report also shows that numbers aren't always necessarily the answer - in some cases fewer, high quality, well designed leisure facilities have been effective in driving down inactivity levels.

Interestingly, the report also reveals, for the first time via data obtained under Freedom of Information laws, that English local authorities spent on average just two per cent of public health budgets on physical activity promotion and investment in 2012. This is in stark contrast to the 38 per cent spent on sexual health, and 12 per cent on alcohol misuse.

The report highlights the major opportunity for leisure operators to make a major impact on the health of the nation. The key recommendations for the sector to help turn the tide are:

  • Activity and community sports providers should focus on engaging with inactive people
  • Activity providers should better record, analyse and evaluate the users of their facilities and effectiveness of their programmes to improve the evidence base.

The report also calls on national and local government to take concerted action. Recommendations include:

  • Government should develop and deliver a cross party national strategy to turn the tide of inactivity.
  • Local authorities should invest in targeted inactivity interventions in line with other top tier health concerns, such as alcohol misuse and smoking.
  • Collective adoption of a national ambition to reduce inactivity by one per cent year-on-year by local authorities

Click here to read the full article online.

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