Physical activity

Physical inactivity is responsible for one in six UK deaths (equal to smoking) and is estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually (including £0.9 billion to the NHS alone). Unfortunately the UK population is around 20% less active than in the 1960s. If current trends continue, it will be 35% less active by 2030.

A wealth of evidence shows that an active life is essential for physical and mental health and wellbeing. A number of diseases are currently on the increase and affecting people at an earlier age. They include cancer and diabetes, and conditions like obesity, hypertension and depression. Regular physical activity can guard us against these. The benefits don’t stop there. Being active plays a key role in brain development in early childhood and is also good for longer-term educational attainment. Increased energy levels boost workplace productivity and reduce sickness absence. An active population can even reduce levels of crime and antisocial behaviour.

The experience of other countries tells us that getting the whole nation active every day will only happen if we involve all sectors. We need to embed physical activity into the fabric of daily life, making it an easy, cost-effective and ‘normal’ choice in every community in England.

Four areas for action

  1. A social movement to get everybody active every day, driving a radical shift in the take-up of physical activity on a national scale – and making it a routine part of daily life in England
  2. People working together across sectors to spread the word, particularly: education; sport & leisure; health & social care, planning, design, development and transport
  3. Active environments - thoughtful urban design, understanding land use patterns, and creating transportation systems that promote walking and cycling will help to create active, healthier, and more liveable communities
  4. Moving at scale - scaling up interventions that make us active
Physical activity infograph


Further useful links