Blueprint for an Active Britain
Click here to read ukactive's Blueprint for an Active Britain report
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson
Chair of the Board, ukactive
Although this is comparable to many of the great public health challenges facing the UK today, including smoking, alcohol harm and poor diet, physical inactivity is the last of these factors to receive a long-term, dedicated, resource-backed strategy.
Studies published in the Lancet have shown that inactivity is as dangerous to an individual's health as smoking, and a recent study of 334,000 European men found that nearly twice as many premature deaths can be attributed to physical inactivity as to obesity.
ukactive's Blueprint for an Active Britain calls for a single-minded focusing of resources, energy and policy to turn the tide of physical inactivity. It is one of the UK's greatest-ever social challenges. At its heart, the ukactive Blueprint lays the foundations for a stakeholder-supported government-led review of how and where physical activity can play a part in improving the nation's well-being, with practical policy recommendations across a range of areas.
It reveals fresh data citing that 57 per cent of MPs believe physical inactivity is one of the top two health issues facing the UK right now and that 79 per cent of MPs feel that physical inactivity should be a higher priority for government.
For the first time, this document brings together the highest profile voices to address core themes in physical activity promotion, and sets out an ambitious forward course for policy development at this critical juncture.
We set out ten fundamental truths as the starting point of a turbo-charged government focus on the issues which will lead to greater cohesion between stakeholders, government and the physical activity sector in re-embedding activity back into our daily lives.
1) To turn the tide of inactivity, getting people moving must be considered a top-tier, standalone health issue, and embedding activity into all aspects of daily life must be of the highest priority for government.
2) Physical activity must become a crucial part of the delivery mechanisms of the National Health Service (NHS), with the development of a comprehensive, evidence-based physical activity service available to everyone who needs it integral to future healthcare planning in Britain.
3) When it comes to activity provision, one size does not fit all. Regardless of age, gender, disability or background, there should be a range of physical activity opportunities that cater for all audiences. These should be delivered in a range of settings with the support of government, local authorities, the activity sector and a range of public and private stakeholders; there should be a constant process of innovation and new product development actively supported by government; and the programmes, initiatives and projects that are shown to have an impact should be embedded in local frameworks.
4) The exclusive system of sports funding, overly-reliant on a single strand of delivery via the previous 'default' mechanism of National Governing Bodies, should be modernised and made more open. Funding should be awarded to any organisation that can deliver much-needed impetus to tackling inequalities in participation and improving health, irrespective of whether they are from the public, private or third sector. This should accompany a fundamental and conclusive shift from talking about the counterproductive language of sport, to the inclusive language of activity.
5) Where we live and work and how we travel are fundamental to creating active habits and lifestyles; town planners, architects and technology providers are now central to this discussion and their professional skills, harnessed in the right way, will bring about industrial-scale shifts in our relationship with activity.
6) Private enterprise and brands have an enormous role to play in the promotion of physical activity through innovative cross-sector partnerships, sponsorship of existing and new physical activity programmes and support via brands' unique ability to create and sustain movements. It's vital that the dialogue between government and business in this area continues to grow via an independent and refreshed Physical Activity Network that brings major consumer brands together with activity providers to catalyse innovation and partnerships.
7) Activity professionals and the well-being workforce have a titanic role to play in health promotion. Government should support the long-term development of the activity sector workforce so that it can support the NHS to deliver proactive well-being and preventative healthcare in a range of settings. In close working partnership with the existing community of medical professionals, the role of Chartered Activity Professional should be created to make this possible.
8) Research, evaluation and the proper use of technology are central to the success of health policy, so government should support the widespread investment in modern technology. This will enable the tracking and monitoring of activity levels nationally. It's also vital to evaluate the impact of local programmes developed in partnership with activity providers and their current technical partners. Research and medical bodies such as NICE should prioritise research investment into real-world programmes delivered by the activity sector.
9) Obesity is a national priority which should primarily be tackled through product reformulation, reduced portion sizes, the promotion of a balanced diet and other such measures which are shown to have an independently-verifiable positive impact on reducing calorie consumption and increasing energy expenditure. This must be underpinned by community-based services that educate, support and motivate people to move more as part of the long-term solution. However, government should look beyond the national obsession with fat and focus not only on the size of our waists but the health of our hearts: physical activity has vast and far-reaching benefits beyond its impact on weight management, a fact that must be recognised in all current and future engagement with this topic by government. You can neither outrun a bad diet, nor clean-eat away the impact of sedentary feet. We have to get the nation moving too.
10) An active workforce is a healthy, productive and commercially successful workforce. With an increasing number of jobs in the UK defined as sedentary, businesses, as well as the healthcare sector, begin to feel the strain of an inactive workforce. It's essential that open dialogues between government, academics, private enterprise and the activity sector begin to share what works and support business, as well as the public sector, to introduce bold, ambitious plans for active workplaces. The promotion of physical activity by an employer has to become as important as the provision of an annual leave allowance, as employees increasingly assess the merits of one employer over another.
The ideas within this report present a system-wide approach to promoting physical activity for everyone, and a partnership approach to prevent the debilitating spread of physical inactivity.
I look forward to working with all ukactive's members, partners and stakeholders over the coming year to realise the ambitions set out in this document.
U Ekelumd et al, "Physical activity and all-cause mortality across levels of overall and abdominal adiposity in European men and women: the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study (EPIC)", American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, (Jan 2015), pp. 1 - 9