Most adults don't exercise enough, research finds

Generic pic of cyclist The government recommends people take moderate exercise at least 12 times in every four-week period.

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Most adults in England are risking their health by failing to get enough exercise, research suggests.

A University of Bristol-led study found 80% failed to meet the government target of taking moderate exercise at least 12 times in a four-week period.

Better-off and better-educated adults were most likely to exercise, while the poorer and least educated were most likely to be inactive.

The study analysed exercise data for more than a million adults in England.

It found about 8% of adults who were physically able to walk had not walked for even five minutes continuously during a four-week period, while 46% had not walked for leisure for more than 30 minutes continuously.

Researchers said 88% had not been swimming, 90% had not used a gym and around 20% of people over the age of 16 had done only minimal amounts of physical activity.

Warm weather

They say the findings provide evidence of a direct correlation between an individual's education, household income and local area deprivation and their level of physical activity.

Start Quote

Physical inactivity is the most important modifiable health behaviour for chronic disease”

End Quote Prof Carol Propper

Those with higher socioeconomic status were more physically active and people with a degree only had a 12% chance of being inactive. However, those with no qualifications were three times as likely to not exercise.

Those living in areas with more sports facilities and higher local authority spending on new facilities were also less likely to be inactive.

The study also found warm weather made people more likely to exercise, while rain reduced levels of physical activity.

Carol Propper, professor of economics at the university's Centre for Market and Public Organisation, said: "Physical inactivity is the most important modifiable health behaviour for chronic disease, so knowing who is physically inactive is important for designing cost-effective policy interventions."

She said the findings suggested that "financial as well as cultural barriers need to be overcome to reduce the prevalence of physical inactivity".

The NHS recommends people exercise at moderate intensity for at least two and a half hours every week. This can include cycling, fast walking, hiking and basketball. Experts also recommend muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week to work major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).

Olympic legacy

Tam Fry, spokesman for the National Obesity Forum and honorary chairman of the Child Growth Foundation, said: "No-one should be at all surprised by these woeful statistics."

He blamed successive governments for failing to ensure that the London 2012 Olympics inspired people to participate in grassroots sport.

The Economic and Social Research Council-funded research analysed data from Sport England's annual Active People Surveys, which included details on an individual's gender, education, income and local area deprivation, physical activity levels and local geographical factors such as weather and access to sports facilities and green spaces.

The World Health Organisation estimates physical inactivity causes 1.9 million deaths a year worldwide, including 10% to 16% of breast cancer, colon cases and diabetes cases and about 22% of coronary heart disease cases.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    #97 Yes there are other factors but they don't change the basic laws of physics. Energy in should match energy out. If you could eat 1000 calories of fructose syrup but store 2000 calories you could lipo out the difference and solve the world energy crisis.

    #96 PRECISELY. Regardless of 'genes' your grandparents didn't put on weight because they ate less food. There's a hint there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    98. Atheissimo - Yea Christian Bale is insane (must be bordering on dangerous?)

    Yes I agree. Perhaps some pressure to be in shape is good, but its a fine line, and will inevitably get out of hand (if it hasn't already begun that process).

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    So in this story you say I am not exercising enough and in another story you are welcoming the return of families sitting down to watch TV.

    I am now so confused!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I am ridiculously grateful for the small gym at my workplace. £10 a month, and while it doesn't have much it provides the machines, weights, and social atmosphere that makes exercising so much easier. It's not just health, it's mood and sleep - I find both improve significantly.

    You'd qualify as having an eating disorder. Bingeing and fasting is not good for you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Another confirmation (if it was needed) that poor people are just lazy.

  • Comment number 100.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    when the NHS has been abolished by this conservative government then all the obese and unfit people will die and there will be no problem .

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    @ 81

    That's true. You only have to look at Christian Bale and his insane weight loss and gain between The Machinist and The Dark Knight Rises (playing a skeleton and a huge beefcake).

    But I don't think it's any more reasonable to expect a skinny guy to be able to do that any more than a girl to become a supermodel. Imagine the hell you'd raise if you told a girl her boobs were too small.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    86. Peter_Sym
    "Funny how these genes didn't seem to express themselves in our grandparents though isn't it?"

    You usually sound like an educated man, I'm surprised you haven't heard of epigenetics from grandparents and obesity, fructose and insulin response. Today you sound like a Daily Fail reader. People can and should try harder, watch their diet and stay fit. But there ARE other factors.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    86. Peter_Sym "these genes didn't seem to express themselves in our grandparents though?"

    Only recently has everyone had access to sufficient food. Doesn't change the fact that some have always been more efficient at energy storage. It was (and one day may be again) an evolutionary advantage. Rises in 'obesity' have mirrored those in life expectancy. I'm still not convinced it's a 'problem'.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    well depends really, I walk every where because I cant afford bus fair or fuel for car etc. I expect a lot of people are in the same boat so after a long split shift of low page they expect people to go out on a jog or do sit ups too? hmm please lord give me a break

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Why not give free local gym membership to all adults, it wouldn't really cost that much as an initiative. A few hundred quid a year per person at most. And that's before the health benefits are deducted.

    We could finance it by avoiding unjustified wars and not bailing out banksters.

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Swimming or walking a few miles at a pace that you find comfortable each day is something virtually most people can do and benefit from better health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    I am horrified to discover that as many as 10% of people DO belong to a gym. Do they not have a life? Hobbies, Gardens, Workplaces to walk or cycle to, Tennis racket, ball of some sort, canoe or kayak. Something at lease which is real exercise and real fun.

    It is ridiculous to see people rock up to a gym in their car, walk on a treadmill then drive home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    20. Why would exercising infrequently have any effect on your level of education in the way you suggest? Not spending three hours a week at a gym provides you with more time for studying or working, which is what many of the unfit young are doing to ensure they don't end up as benefits scroungers!

    30. There are free outdoor gyms, there are rich parents, and there are discounts at uni gyms.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Exercise is counter-productive if you don't enjoy it. This is because the mind is more powerful than the body. If you have a positive mental and emotional outlook then your health will improve. We need research in how to achieve this for the greatest number of people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    I think you misread that. They are MORE likely to be active

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Joined a gym, too expensive; started swimming, struggled to find enough space to achieve a length; tried running, got chased by dogs and shouted at by drunks; walked to work, choked on fumes.

    Not trying cycling!

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    I get my exercise looking for the TV, DVD Player and Sky Box remotes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    'Maybe, because many of us know that weight is 75% genetic'
    Funny how these genes didn't seem to express themselves in our grandparents though isn't it?

    You can neither create nor destroy energy. Eat 3000 calories, burn 2000 you'll store 1000 in fat. Eat 3000 burn 4000 you'll lose 1000 cals of your fat reserves. Anything else is utter nonsense.


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