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 425.

    I run 3-4 times a week for about 4-5 miles (about half an hour or more each time) but I can see how people are on about fitting it in though - I have to get up at 5am to do it (before my young kids wake up!). Work is just too far away to cycle to (and the roads are a bit dangerous to do that anyway). It just takes the initial push to do it and you'll get used to the routine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 424.

    the bebs comment section could do with more exercise. ran out of puff earlier. Damn and blast that Siemens, said a beeb spokesman.

  • rate this

    Comment number 423.

    We could restrict motor vehicles to A-roads and above, and to rural areas and leave them at out-of-town car parks - as HGV drivers do. Many of us would be fitter, kids and the elderly could venture outside again and town centres would thrive. There'd probably be more local employment at the sad expense of a few white vans too.

    You know it makes sense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 422.

    @419 exactly the Olympics gave lots of high tech shiny facilities to hose in the elite group which is all well and good but those of us involved at grass roots got a set of cones and a few balls and asked to volunteer our time. If we haven't got the basic facilities for the kids how do we encourage them to lead active lifestyles

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    This research objectively proves what many of us think intuitively; that is inactivity and physical unfitness is statistically associated with obesity, low educational standards, being unemployed and living on benefits and possible alcohol and drug abuse.
    I'm not saying all poor people can be so categorized or that all educated people are fit, but that there is a statistical correlation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    I was out riding my bike the other day, had a crash and broke my collar bone. You try and do the right thing........

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    The whole Olympic legacy thing for grassroots sport and exercise is a farce. Living in Stratford I would have thought there would be more opportunity to get involved at a reasonable cost. However, with the Copper Box opening at exactly the same high price as the other very few gyms in the area, it is far too expensive for someone like me on a lower income to afford.

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    I cycle to work most days. I'm passed by a continuous stream of cars, 95% of which have only one person in, and maybe >50% are travelling to and from roughly the same place as myself. I wonder how long it'll be before people realise that this is a stupid habit, which if they break will mean they can stop whining about petrol prices/car running costs and also how they don't have time to exercise?

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    It has very little to do with finances and everything to do with motivation. I work from home but make sure I go for a bike ride every morning and treat it like I am cycling to work. Its a great start to the day and wakes you up ready for work. I have stopped suing the car to go food shopping as well because I bought a bike trailer and now it costs me nothing to get there and back.

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    I don't like escalators and won't use them - I look for the staircase and use that. In large parking lots always park where people who like their cars do - not close to the buildings. In work use a restroom that requires a bit of a walk. At lunch go for a walk - or walk up and down the stairs.
    In work take the stairs instead of the elevator. Who needs a gym.

  • rate this

    Comment number 415.

    Solution to get fat people out and about. Have the fat man olympics, it's just the same but with fat people :D

    People are lazy, and they're getting lazier. Ain't nothing anyone can do about it. Research all you want, nothing will change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    I'm too lazy even to read this. In fact I'm dictating this because I'm too lazy to type. Or finish sentenc

  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    The trouble with a lot of these type of articles is they lead some people to believe you have to have strenuous workouts to become isn't like that at all .Walking a few miles a day is all that is needed for good health,but that alone is no use if you don't eat and drink properly.You can overdo exercise too,strangely enough Andrew Marr is blaming his stroke partly on overdoing exercise.

  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    Most adults don't exercise enough, research finds.

    Another group of researchers who are paid to produce findings that are bleeding obvious.

  • rate this

    Comment number 411.

    Whether I exercise enough or not has nothing to do with the beeb.
    In fact it is a damn silly question to ask.
    I'm off to watch the telly upstairs. i have an escalator.

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    I can't exercise. I'm trying to become europe's fattest person.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    Never had the time being self employed... No work no pay.
    What with all the BS Carbon taxes imposed these days
    Fuel Tax 70%
    Energy Tax 25%
    VED on my older vehicle

    Maybe I've got it all wrong... should just stop working & exercise and let the rest of society keep me.
    Whats it like to receive hand outs... I could get used to that I guess

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    "Most adults don't exercise enough" = More drivel via the bbc
    Sweeping B/S statements of erroneous origin should be consigned to the likes of the daily mail and or express.
    Anyway we don't need more exercise to make us happy as we now have the latest B/S from the coalition chuckle brothers, nick & dave. with their "Prototype Happiness Indicator" that tells us we are happier than last year.

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    I dint used to get much exercise but we now have a dog. He gets me out walking, he's a lovely young fellow, full of fun and energy, so I'm walking a lot more than I used to do. Looking forward to shedding a bit of weight as well - so is Tia Maria-Rosa!

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.


    You just aren't using your imagination. I go open water swimming. This morning I swam about 2 miles. The water was warm and the surface like glass. There is no one in my lane ... ever. The ceiling was 100 miles of clear blue sky and there are plenty of people to chat to (socialise with) when I get out. Just watch out for the swans. ;-)

    Do something you enjoy and its not a chore.


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