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 245.

    Some may take this as proof that not enough facilities are made available for the poorer. I would take this as proof that the more motivated, active, engaged people tend to be more successful........

  • rate this

    Comment number 244.

    Sorry Kitty, 200/219 you are just making excuses. I often get in after 6, then i train with my local swimming club, who have a session virtually every night. After we finsh the pools are open for adult lanes until 10pm.

  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    I exercise regularly now, walking to and from work (1 hour per day 5 days per week) and going to the gym to work with weights and core fitness exercises for one hour a session either two to four times I week when I can.

    But exercise used to be a struggle for me because I hated it. Memories of being the slowest in my class at running made me not enjoy it. Now I tell myself I enjoy it. It works!

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    If people can't afford exercise - how can they afford a car? I don't have a car. I feel sorry for kids that are forced to be driven to school. Those parents try to make me ill with their exhaust as well as directly risking my life and impacting on my quality of life. And then I have to foot the additional NHS bill for their kids. I blame the parents.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    235. uʍop ǝpısdn
    "You may live in an area where cycling/running/walking are safe"

    Come on... I live in inner city Nottingham NG7 post-code (aka Shotingham, Assassination city etc) walking is perfectly safe. Its the easy Midlands, not Eastern Helmand province. If anything if you do fear (probably none-existent) muggers getting fit enough to out run them might be prudent!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.


    You do know that most things the NHS treat are self inflicted injuries? DIY accidents / Walking accidents / climbing accidents / horsing around accidents. There are just as many sports / hobby related injuries costing the NHS a lot of money to treat long term as there is smoking / obesity and other similar things. Also Food stamps will not work...

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    You only have to want to....
    If we encouraged more physical activity form and early age, then more would stick with it. Completely disagree with Paul2002 below. We build cycle paths and routes and then watch as cyclist blatantly disregard them, ride on the road, jump lights, ride staight off pavements in front of cars etc, and then cry when no one likes them. Get up, get out and get going!

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    It's funny how Ethiopia doesn't seem to have an "obesity epidemic", and is so mercifully free of people with thyroid problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    Jogging, walking, biking, body weight exercises, home gyms.
    I've always found it weird that people pay £30 a month for private gyms - plus the 'kit', plus the petrol, plus the time to drive there and back.
    If it takes you 30 mins (say) round trip to drive to gym - you could have done 30 mins home exercise / jog or what ever at no cost and saved the hour you spent at the gym.

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    Not exactly ground breaking research, "The study also found warm weather made people more likely to exercise, while rain reduced levels of physical activity " You could add extreme cold and snow reduced activity further. How much did this cost ?
    You might as well say the malnourished around the world don't eat enough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    "Maybe you should try it rather than the excuses you have written below which are all absolutely rediculous !!"

    Actually, the reasons he has given are perfectly sensible,

    You may live in an area where cycling/running/walking are safe, and the gym is full of buddies from the village pub - I don't know and don't care.

    But not everybody lives I such cosy places

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    I hire fitness equipment to the public, when I go to collect it I always ask the customer 'how did you get on?'

    I've heard every excuse going but the most common one is 'I haven't had time to use it' (bearing in mind its been at their house for at least 4 weeks)

    Some people are just lazy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    You either take the view that being poor or living in a poor area makes it harder to keep fit and exercise because you can't afford decent food and a gym membership. OR.... you take the view that it's the person who is lazy and therefore avoids exercise and doesn't care about their health and food intake. Personally, I think its the latter. Everybody can keep fit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    As long as our society continuously promotes sedentary work, the car, the PC, the TV, the sugar, salt, fat supermarkets and of course the fatty fast food joints, then the UK public will always be driven directly to obesity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    I dont mind if people dont excersise - but i do resent paying for it when they seek NHS treatment. Theres a big difference between an athlete and someone who has a balanced lifestyle.

    Obesity is not a disease its a lack of discipline, and it should be dealt with as such.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    Elitest (187) wrote - poorer people (on average) spend a greater proportion of their money on gambling, smoking, and alcohol - - I don't have a tv, smoke, drink, or gamble. I'm early retired, and live on my savings and £100 per month from my company pension, until I can draw my OAP in 2 years. I used to cycle 100 miles a week to and from work, until my knees gave out. I walk if less than 5 miles

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    From my own personal experience I would say the only thing you need to exercise is motivation
    Find an activity you enjoy, the more you enjoy it the easier the motivation and the more exercise you will end up wanting to do (questions like 'is Pilates better than running?' etc are irrelevant).
    Remember that as you get fitter, your motivation will come more easily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Kitty 200, I have family and weekends is our time too. But we go swimming every Sunday morning as a family and cycling in 'safe areas' on Saturdays...I'm lucky enough to live near reservoirs and canal towpaths. But we still exercise as a family as I hope it will encourage my children to stay health. Housework can be done a job each night through the evenings which takes 10/15 minutes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    I wasn't engaging in much exercise until 2 years ago when I started cycling to work (train back). As my fitness grew I subsequently cycled both ways and then started to run. I work 45+ hours per work and using my commute to exercise is a major part of my day/life now. I had two cars and a motorbike, now I only have one car (and two bikes). Cheaper, healthier, greener!

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    I'm not sure where I'd fit in to all of this. I run 12 miles per day at nearly 53 years of age.
    I do that because I'm inherently bone idle. A sofa is my natural place. It must be resisted.


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