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Number of active adults hits a record high

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Efforts to help more people get active are starting to make a real difference

The number of UK adults classed as physically active has increased by 1 million in the past four years.

Latest figures from Sport England's Active Lives study, published today (17 October), show that there are now 28.6 million people who do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week.

The number of inactive people – doing fewer than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week – is down to 11.2 million, a decrease of 131,700 since 2015 and the lowest figure ever recorded by the survey.

The Active Lives Adults report – which is based on data gathered from 180,000 respondents aged 16+ in the 12 months from May 2018 to May 2019 – also show that the increased activity levels have been driven by women and older adults (those aged 55+).

According to the report, the activities which have seen the largest increases among women include weight training, HIIT and gym sessions.

For older people, running, weight sessions and gym sessions have grown in popularity.

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England CEO, said the figures from the report vindicate the grassroots organisation's Towards an Active Nation strategy – and shows how campaigns such at This Girl Can are able to ignite positive change.

"The Active Life report shows us that efforts to help more people get active are starting to make a real difference, particularly for older adults, women and those with a disability or long-term health condition," Hollingsworth said.

“But we can’t be complacent. Within the overall positive picture of these figures is a sobering reality – if you are well-off you are far more likely to be active than if you’re on a low income or less affluent.

“While there are complex barriers that stop less well-off people from getting active, this is an unacceptable inequality and one we’re starting to address in the work we are doing across the country – including piloting programmes in 12 local areas to tackle inequality.

According to the report, people who are less affluent are the most likely to be inactive (33%) and the least likely to be active (54%) compared to those who are the most well-off – who are 16% inactive and 72% active.

“We urge anyone working towards helping people live healthier lives – whether that’s government policy makers or health professionals – to consider physical activity as a vehicle to help drive positive outcomes, so that everyone can benefit," Hollingsworth added.

ACTIVE LIVES HIGHLIGHTS

• Walking for leisure or travel remains the most popular activity, with 477,800 more people walking for travel (15,247,600 in total) and 514,000 more walking for leisure (19,162,200).

• Fitness activities are becoming even more popular, especially for women and those in older groups, with 398,000 more people taking part (13,766,300 in total). Weight sessions are increasingly popular, with this type of fitness being easily adapted for different groups, e.g. strength and balance for older people.

• Racket sports continue to decrease in popularity with 111,400 fewer people taking part.

• Netball enjoyed a growth in popularity with 50,200 more people taking part (319,400 in total), with a diverse audience of younger and older women attracted through grassroots programmes like Back to Netball.

Comment: Huw Edwards, CEO, ukactive

"We are pleased to see the Active Lives Survey show a continued increase in people being active and a decrease in the inactive population. This reaffirms the clear trend that the fitness and leisure sector is driving physical activity levels across the country.

"It is important to recognise our members’ incredible contribution to the growth in fitness activities, as demonstrated by the rise in gym and weight training in particular. The updated CMO guidelines on physical activity highlight the importance of strength training, as supported by our Research Institute Principle Investigator, Dr James Steele.

"We are pleased to see the increasing activity among women and older adults highlighted, however, there is still considerable work to do in reducing the inequality gap for lower socioeconomic groups.

"As part of our new partnership with Sport England, we share the aim to deliver more sustainable activity. We must now extend this partnership to the NHS, recognising our sector as critical for the preventative agenda and working together in a strategic relationship to capitalise on our expertise in providing solutions for all parts of society.

"We need the government to acknowledge the scale and influence of our sector and to support the changes necessary to increase our impact over the coming decade, such as regulatory changes to encourage fitness operators onto the high street."

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