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The health benefits of a physically active lifestyle are well documented and there is a large amount of evidence to suggest that regular activity is related to reduced incidence of many chronic conditions. Physical activity contributes to a wide range of health benefits and regular physical activity can improve health outcomes irrespective of whether individuals achieve weight loss.
In 2011 new guidelines on the amount of activity recommended for health were published by the Chief Medical Officers of the four UK countries. This states that:
Adults (aged 19 and over) should aim to be active daily. Over a week, activity should add up to at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week.
Children and young people (aged 5 to 18) should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.
Adult activity data is taken from the Public Health England physical activity profiles, which is based on analysis of data from Sport England’s adult Active Lives Survey (ALS), with responses based on the 12 months to November 2018. In the ALS, gardening is excluded from the measure of physical activity, but is included in the government targets, and hence the PHE analysis. The PHE analysis is also based on adults aged 19 and over, rather than 16 and over in the ALS.
Child activity data is taken from Sport England's Active Lives Children and Young People Survey (ALS CYP) for the academic year 2017/18. This is based on a survey of persons aged 5-16 in England, and covers measures of activity levels, physical literacy, swimming proficiency, wellbeing, self-efficacy and levels of social trust.
Walking and cycling information is taken from the Department of Transport’s National Travel Survey, as presented in the Walking and Cycling Statistics 2017 publication. It covers persons of all ages.
Adult physical activity
Adult physical activity by gender
In the 12 months to November 2018, two thirds of adults (66%) were considered active as per the government guidelines. 22% were considered to be inactive.
Men (68%) were more likely to be active than women (64%).
Adult physical activity by age group
Activity levels generally fall with age, but the sharpest decline comes at ages 75-84 (48% active) and age 85+ (26% active).
Adult physical activity by deprivation level1
Activity levels decrease as deprivation increases, from 72% active in the least deprived areas, to 57% in the most deprived areas.
Adult physical activity by Local Authority
The proportion of adults classified as active ranged from 52% to 80% across Local Authorities.
Bath and North East Somerset, Isles of Scilly, Richmond Upon Thames, Brighton and Hove, York, and Islington all had proportions active above 75%.
Wolverhampton, Newham and Blackpool had proportions active of less than 55%.
1. Includes all walks over 50 yards on the public highway.
2.Trip: A one-way course of travel with a single main purpose. A “cycling trip” is one where the greatest part was cycled. Stage: Trips consist of one or more stages. A new stage is defined when there is a change in the mode of transport. See source publication for further details.
18% of children and young people are meeting the current Chief Medical Officer guidelines of taking part in sport and physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day. A further 26% sit just below this threshold, taking part on average for 60+ minutes a day across the week, whilst 33% do less than an average of 30 minutes a day.
Boys (20%) are more likely to be active every day than girls (14%).
Childhood physical activity by family affluence1
Results show some significant inequalities in activity levels, based on family income.
In total, 39% of children in the least affluent families do fewer than 30 minutes of activity a day, compared to 26% of children from the most affluent families.
1. The Family Affluence Scale provides an indication of the social status of children and young people’s families. The scale is derived from a series of questions about their home and family such as car ownership, computers, and foreign holidays.