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Nuffield Health calls for National Movement Strategy as research shows decline in fitness levels among some consumers

People are moving more, but not meeting guidelines
Gender inequality around exercise still evident
Education around the benefits of exercise is lacking
Motivation, price and body confidence are the main barriers
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University of Brighton
£23,144 to £25,138pa
location: Brighton, East Sussex, United Kingdom
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Nuffield Health’s fourth annual survey, the Healthier Nation Index, has found people moved slightly more in 2023 than 2022, but almost 75 per cent are still not meeting World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

More than 8,000 people were questioned about their health and wellbeing, with the results showing that while respondents are moving around 18 minutes more each week compared to 2022, the average amount of activity only amounts to 83 minutes per week, while 33 per cent hadn’t done any vigorous activity in a year.

Nuffield found women’s fitness levels going in the wrong direction: 31 per cent felt their fitness levels had improved, but 33 per cent considered themselves less fit than the previous year. The findings were slightly better with men, with 38 per cent report feeling fitter, versus 26 per cent feeling less fit.

Education about the benefits of exercise is needed, with only 39 per cent knowing that exercise can reduce risk of illness by up to 50 per cent – including heart disease and cancer. Thirty six per cent of 16- to 24-year-olds don’t know that exercise can improve mental health.

While those living with long-term conditions could certainly benefit from exercise, 20 per cent stated they hadn’t done any in the previous 12 months.

Motivation, price and body confidence were found to be the main barriers to exercise and something the fitness industry need to innovate around going forward.

Motivation was cited as the biggest barrier by 52 per cent (more women than men), while 59 per cent said the cost of living was a problem and having a negative impact on their physical and mental health. Among 16 to 24-year-olds, 51 per cent said body confidence impacted their motivation.

Nuffield Health is calling on all political parties to commit to a National Movement Strategy to promote physical activity and embed movement into every aspect of society and to ensure physical activity is prioritised to offset the nation’s ongoing health crisis.

Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Nuffield Health medical and charity director, says; “While it’s encouraging to see improvements in activity levels, it’s surprising and worrying to see that there is still a lack of understanding of the benefits movement has in preventing and treating long-term conditions.

“We’re already seeing the detrimental effects inactivity levels are having on our personal health, but it’s also having an economic impact. It is critical that as a nation we prioritise movement and work collectively across government, healthcare providers, employers and the fitness industry, as well as at community level, to find solutions to help people find ways to build movement into their everyday lives.”

The premium club operator has also launched the #MyDailyMovement campaign, sharing educational content and expert advice to dispel some of the more common myths and raise awareness of the importance of daily movement.

Nuffield Health Ambassador, Dame Kelly Holmes says there needs to be more awareness and understanding of how exercise can benefit the body and mind and recommends breaking down physical activity into enjoyable and manageable forms. “Once motivation increases, exercise is no longer perceived as a chore and once these changes become a habit, you can make more and build on them,” she says.

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