Steps To Solving Inactivity Report




"Steps to solving inactivity" presents new findings from the largest national review of physical activity interventions of its kind and puts forward compelling evidence on what is needed to help solve the inactivity epidemic in the UK. It draws on official government data to show that 29 per cent of people in England are classed as physically inactive. This means that more than one in four people fail to achieve 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week, even though they can do it in three ten minute bites. The report reveals that local authorities across the country have responded by nearly doubling the amount of public health funding they have allocated to tackling the issue between 2013/14 and 2014/15. This represents a shift from 2 per cent to 4 per cent of public health budget.

Key findings

Levels of inactivity 

  • 29 per cent of people in England are classed as physically inactive which means that more than one in four people fail to achieve 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week
  • Inactivity is the fourth largest cause of disease and disability and directly contributes to one in six deaths in the UK making it as dangerous as smoking
  • Inactivity levels in the UK are double those of Germany and France and more than 20 per cent higher than those in the United States


Allocated spend on inactivity 

  • Local authorities have doubled the amount of public health funding that they have allocated to tackling physical inactivity between 2013/14 and 2014/15
  • 70 per cent of local authorities have increased their allocated public health budget spend on physical activity in 2014/15
  • Spend on inactivity still represents the smallest proportion of public health budgets (four per cent) in comparison to the other top tier public health areas: sexual health (36 per cent), alcohol misuse (30 per cent) and smoking cessation (9 per cent)

Evidence gap 

  • A total of 952 physical activity programmes, delivered in schools, workplaces, leisure centres, health and fitness clubs, outdoor settings, primary care sites and community venues, were submitted to a recent national review
  • Analysis of these physical activity programmes found that they are impacting the activity levels of up to 3.5 million people annually
  • The criteria used in the review highlighted a gap in the routine data collection, evaluation and research for physical activity



  • Improve the collation, coordination and breadth of physical inactivity data for adults and children within a single UK-wide framework
  • Increase investment into researching physical activity programmes that can be applied to every day settings including leisure, transport, planning and education
  • Establish a UK-wide framework to support the development of a more data-oriented approach to measuring outcomes and benchmark progress across the physical activity sector

Local authorities

  • Prioritise and resource physical activity programmes to the same level as other top tier public health risks
  • Ensure physical activity provision is integrated into planning and implementation across areas such as public health, social care, education, environmental planning and transport policies
  • Require all Health and Wellbeing Boards to have a designated physical activity champion, who will specifically work to ensure its appropriate integration and provision based on local needs

The activity sector

  • Design and implement programmes with a focus on engaging inactive people and providing inclusive services aimed at reducing health inequalities
  • Implement routine data collection at base line, exit and follow up for programmes to demonstrate impact in the short and long term
  • Use the data that has been collected to shape and refine physical activity programmes and services