Journal articles

Turning the tide of inactivity

Turning the tide of inactivity back to list

06 March 2014

For the first time, ukactive has pooled together all of the available data on physical inactivity from 150 local authorities, and is set to combine this raw data with opinions, insights and recommendations from Public Health Directors from as many local authorities as possible.

The aim of the report is to map out the current situation when it comes to physical inactivity, both in terms of the proportion of inactive adults and also the human and financial cost to individual councils. By combining this data with comment from Public Health Directors, ukactive believes the report will act as a guide to local councils who want to improve their approach to physical inactivity for the health of the nation.

By sharing best practice in this manner, local councils will be better placed to tread the same path as those who have already introduced successful initiatives to combat physical inactivity.

Speaking after the Summit held on November 7th in Central London, Chairman Fred Turok, who announced the report to over 400 delegates, said: "I'm delighted that ukactive can be a pioneer in this type of research. Bringing together the expertise from Public Health experts, leisure providers and local councils in this report will represent a significant stride forward in turning the tide of inactivity."

ukactive is working with key health bodies such as Public Health England and The Local Government Association, as well as utilising the expertise of its 3,500 stakeholders across the UK.

Early Findings

Data from the report has already received significant attention in national media. The Daily Telegraph noted that the proportion of adults in Manchester City Council who are classed as physically inactive (40%) is more than double that of Wokingham in Berkshire (18%).

There are also striking inequalities within regions and areas of similar socio-economic strata. For example in Sunderland it's estimated that 37% of people are classed as inactive, whereas in Newcastle just a few miles away, 25% of the population are inactive.

To further emphasise the point that inactivity is not inextricably linked to deprivation, there is the example of Islington and Merton in London. Islington, a London Borough with high levels of deprivation, is one of the best performing authorities in the country, with only 20% of adults inactive. In comparison, the relatively affluent area of Merton has 31% of adults classed as inactive.

The reasons behind this huge gap in activity can be partially explained by Islington council's proactive and evaluation-based attitude to physical activity provision, with a huge amount of schemes and programmes offered by the council's leisure providers, including free leisure opportunities for young people and an award winning cancer survivorship exercise referral programme.

ukactive's unique data sets will offer links and associations that could get to the core of why so many people remain inactive. The report uses the following parameters to draw conclusion across local authorities:

  • new information on the amount of green spaces in each local authority
  • the amount of usable leisure facilities per 100,000 people in each authority
  • the average council spend on physical activity provision

By determining the true cost of physical inactivity in each local area, ukactive has already asserted that over £1.2 billion (or £44 per household) could be saved if there was a 1% reduction in physical inactivity year-on-year for five years. The cost of inactivity, in human and financial terms, has made governments across the world take notice of what is already the fourth leading risk factor for mortality.

The European Union, together with the UK government, has already pledged to do more to tackle physical inactivity. In the coming weeks, the full picture of physical inactivity in the UK will become clearer than ever before.

Next Steps

Producing a report that acts as a marker for where we are now is only a part of the overall solution. While it's vital to know as much as we can before moving forward, it's only by learning the lessons regarding what has already made an impact on physical inactivity, and then applying those lessons to councils who have yet to realise the significance of the problem, that we can truly begin to turn the tide.

Successful, effective initiatives, such as the Inspire Peterborough programme or Live Well Richmond scheme have made a tangible difference to physical inactivity and improved the lives of residents while also reducing the costs of healthcare. The main aim of the report is to highlight these schemes and where they have been a success, so that their example can be easily followed by other authorities who are interested in getting more people, more active, more often.

The report won't stand still after its release. ukactive hopes it fosters debate and co-operation from local authorities, stakeholders and indeed anyone who has an interest in the improved health of the nation.

Where there is a data set that can be added, we will look to add it, or a consideration from a health professional, we will try to address it. When more data becomes available we will also be updating the report.

Read the report

The report is available for download on the ukactive website, from

Use the website

ukactive have built a website, bringing the report to life. Type in a post code or use the interactive map to download full reports for each local authority included in the report. Each profile includes national ranking, the proportion of inactive adults in the selected area as well as overall cost.


back to list
Danone Nations Cup