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 225.

    Its quite simple really. Get your fat lazy bottom off the sofa and do
    The amount of people that use lame excuses (no time in the day is a good one - wake up earlier then!) to cover-up their own laziness is astounding

  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    Exercise costs nothing, you don'e NEED specialist equipment or clothing, It doesn't have to take an hour either. A couple of minutes here and there soon adds up. So it's not lack of time/money that's the 'problem'. Some people are just lazy, some people just don't want to exercise (their choice). If someone wants to get fit/exercise they will. If they don't, they won't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 223.

    can target the fatties in several ways: stop subsidising junk foods, don't cover weight-related illnesses on the NHS.
    What an idiotic comment. If the NHS didnt treat self inflicted problems it really would be the best in the world as no one would be using it. Im assuming you dont drink/smoke/drive/eat anything unhealthy/do anything but low impact exercise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 222.

    Would not dare to go cycling anymore on UK roads.
    Far to unhealthy. Drivers on their mobiles. Drivers going too fast.

    About time the police cracked down on these dangerous callous maniacs - most of them driver excessively large SUVs. Selfish planet destroyers....

  • rate this

    Comment number 221.

    Despite subsidised gym memberships, healthcare through work schemes and huge amount of information about the benefits of regular exercise.

    Exercise is still a low priority in many peoples lives. There are those you can't blame due to social status and work pressures but others just choose to slob. The nanny state will not change this. It has to come from within.

  • rate this

    Comment number 220.

    @ 206 BARRYBIGBOX below, running is a well known treatment for depression. Maybe you should try it rather than the excuses you have written below which are all absolutely rediculous !!

  • rate this

    Comment number 219.

    @211 Trytastic

    Yes well by the time I get home at around 7pm, it's a little late for anything to be open, and no way am I going to get myself killed on the roads by cycling. You might be lucky enough to live in a good area, I am not... and by the time I get home all I want to do is have food and sleep to begin again at 6:30 am the next day. Weekends are for housework and family.

  • rate this

    Comment number 218.

    Fit for what, exactly ?
    More work ? Tax ? Fleecing nursing-home ?
    No need to repeat every cyclic non-revelation BBC...

  • rate this

    Comment number 217.

    Another group of body fascists preparing a report. So what if adults are not exercising enough? Attend to yourself and let other people do as they wish. Does healthcare for overweight people cost - yes! Does healthcare for sports injuries, mountan-biking, hiking, climbing, swimming, running, football, rugby etc cost - Yes!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 216.

    #198 More likely because carbohydrates & very energy intensive its easy too eat too much. If you eat 2000 calories a day and burn 2000 you will not gain weight. When I did my army basic training I was eating 3 full meals and topping up with mars bars, full sugar coke & crisps. I ate about 6000 cals a day and lost half a stone a week (because I was burning it all and then some)

  • rate this

    Comment number 215.

    The way to get people to make healthy choices is simple: make it the most viable option. You can target the fatties in several ways: stop subsidising junk foods, don't cover weight-related illnesses on the NHS (type-2 diabetes, joint problems caused by being fat, heart disease due to high cholesterol, etc.), turn benefits into food-stamps only redeemable for healthy foods (no alcohol/tobacco).

  • rate this

    Comment number 214.

    And which areas suffer most with Government cuts the most social deprived. As usual Governments Talk the Talk but don't Walk the Walk and fail at ever thing else. Perhaps we need a Ofsted inspection done on MP's and Minsters, performance related pay which they keen to instil on others, now the money we could reclaim from their failings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 213.

    Groan – so its health/obesity/exercise again. I can remember the good old days when HYS would at least alternate this old saw of a subject with global warming.

  • rate this

    Comment number 212.

    101. Milton - People who hold opinions like that make my mind boggle. People are people, some are lazy, some are not, some are wealthy, some are poor. And there are a lot of us in the middle. What about empathy and judging people by who they are as individuals? I am sorry for you if your life experiences have led you & too many others to hold such black and white views.

  • rate this

    Comment number 211.

    Kitty 200. But if you took some exercise, you would have more energy and survive the day better. It is an ever increasing circle. I often work 12-14 hr days, then go swimming training, 6-7000m in 2 hours. One feeds off the other.

  • rate this

    Comment number 210.

    Gyms are the equivalent of a posing pouch and full of vacuous airheads and put the average person off ever setting foot in one. Buy a dog, meet interesting people and keep fit in the process.

  • rate this

    Comment number 209.

    I get plenty of exercise.

    I get up and walk away every time a Wonga ad comes on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 208.

    If you want to do it you will find a way, if you don't you'll find an excuse.
    Much evidence of both below if you read the comments.
    I started running/walking a minute each last year and now run 5k three or four times a week and I feel fantastic for doing it. I didn't know where I would fit running in, but now I plan around it and fit it in easily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 207.

    @ 92.

    I can't believe what I've just read, you are slating people that are actually choosing to stay fit! For people that want to do more than 'stay' fit, for people that want to increase strength and get themselves in good shape a gym is more than necessary - unless you have thousands of pounds to spend on gym equipment, along with having somewhere to put it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 206.

    Exersise in the traditional sense is dull, especially running, cycling is more dangerous than mine clearance, gyms are populated by self-obsessed rich kids and if you want to walk anywhere, especially outside of cities you risk becoming as flat as the hedgehogs. Any of the "i am fit" crew on here had depression? You try getting out of bed if you dont have the money to feed yourself.


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