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By Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive 

The World Health Organization has warned that 1.8 billion people are at risk of diseases such as cancer, stroke, dementia and diabetes due to a lack of physical activity. In the UK, it reports that one in five adults are classed as inactive, getting less than 30 minutes of exercise a week. Considering we face a national health crisis, why has there been no mention of this from our political leaders during the election campaign? 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has questioned the plans of both main political parties following the analysis of their manifestos, querying how the urgent changes to our public services can be delivered within existing fiscal constraints. Both parties claim they can generate economic growth if elected, however,we do know that for growth to be achieved, we need a healthy workforce. There can be no growth without health. 

Previous governments have taken a short-term focus, and it is about time prevention is viewed as the cure, rather than waiting until people’s health conditions decline so much that they are left with no other choice than to get to the hospital.  

This is exactly what the nation wants to see. Our new survey shows that 85% of adults in the UK want the next Government to invest in long-term, lifestyle-focused solutions for the prevention of obesity and health conditions, rather than more spending more on weight-loss drugs. People are wary of quick fixes and those over 55 know this better than anyone, with 93% of this cohort favouring a long-term solution. 

What an incoming Government needs to realise is that physical activity is an essential part of any strategy for health and growth. Physical activity has been proven to prevent more than 20 chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, many types of cancer, musculoskeletal conditions, depression, anxiety, and dementia – generating more than £5.2 billion in healthcare savings a year. 

Whoever takes the keys to Number 10 this week has the chance to reduce our health inequalities, support the growth of the economy by getting people back into work, and help relieve the extreme pressures on the NHS. Finding ways to support the nation to be more active is essential. 

We have more than 7,000 gyms, pools and leisure centres across the UK and they are ready to do so much more if given the opportunity to grow their services and programmes. In Ireland the Government has already introduced permanent reductions in VAT for physical activity services and this resulted in a significant increase in physical activity levels. 

Our survey also found that 61% of people, given the choice by their doctor, would prefer to receive treatment or support for a health condition or injury in a gym, leisure centre or pool over a hospital. These facilities are already running successful programmes and pilots for many health conditions, including cancer rehabilitation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and musculoskeletal conditions such as back pain. We need a government with the vision and willpower to help scale these pilots and programmes and support our sector to tackle these issues nationally. 

The nation wants long-term health solutions that work and for the next Government there’s no time to waste. 

See the full results of our public polling with Savanta, here.

To learn more about ukactive’s policy calls, download our policy paper. For more information or support please email: