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 445.

    384. Global Yawning. Like it! However I've got to tell you that the North East desolation is lovely if you run and cycle round it! Ooops...sorry I meant the North West!

  • rate this

    Comment number 444.

    Whilst I agree with 437 that keeping fit need not cost money, I've run round the town where I live for years, I think it is easy for those of us who are pretty fit to appear to be preaching to others. At 60 I still enjoy running, swimming, cycling but I know others don't find it so easy. Probably the best thing to do is to find one or two others who want to be more active and try things together.

  • rate this

    Comment number 443.

    Hugo Istay, I hope you read this message:
    While I do not think this true for all, it is certainly a major reason.

  • rate this

    Comment number 442.

    206. - Yes I suffer from depression, yet I exercise. I have a dog, it's hard to stay in bed depressed when your dog is jumping all over you wanting a walk. Walking helps cure the depression, makes me feel better. If anyone wants to do more exercise, I would recommend a dog, even borrow a friends/neighbours and offer to walk it, not only does it provide good exercise you meet friendly people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 441.

    13 Minutes ago

    The major problem is accessibility to organised activities or equipment which in general leaves little change from £5 per person in any leisure centre, even using a running track will incur a charge or require a club membership,


    Don't need a running track to run on. Try a local park or your own housing estate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 440.

    It's funny - you never seem to see these studies suggesting that maybe the lack of education and low income and general disadvantage and the obesity all stem from the same cause.

    If you can't be bothered getting out of bed to go to work, you probably can't be bothered making a healthy meal. Both take willpower - something that seems to be out of fashion these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 439.

    The major problem is accessibility to organised activities or equipment which in general leaves little change from £5 per person in any leisure centre, even using a running track will incur a charge or require a club membership, perhaps the millions of pounds of parking fees can be utilized to subsidise a whole host of activities

  • rate this

    Comment number 438.

    Any suggestions for us old 'uns with painful arthritis?

  • rate this

    Comment number 437.

    It's nothing to do with income.
    I'm on a low income (although I have a degree) but have always kept pretty fit. I generally run, which is free! I also cycle on a terrible old dilapidated bike which I rescued from a skip and only has one gear.
    It helps if you enjoy nature and the outdoors. I'd say that was 75% of the enjoyment of a run or cycle for me.I do live somewhere very beautiful though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 436.

    Last thing I would advise if your too lazy to motivate yourself is buying a dog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 435.

    If a lot of people aren't getting enough exercise, could that be because they spend too much time sitting on their **** watching T.V? Seems a likely theory, since there are far too many T.V. channels available - including those of the BBC, with its endless repeats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 434.

    It's the main reason there is so much obesity in this country now. I have MS so I can't go for a spin round the block on my bicycle any more. I am very aware of my midriff expanding now I'm 50 and I do not like it.

    Too many people just sit and eat the wrong food and too much of it too.

    The issue here is laziness and poor excuses, purely and simply.

  • rate this

    Comment number 433.

    427 Andrew - So if you were a blind person you would refuse the help of a guide dog.

  • rate this

    Comment number 432.

    Directing funds at subsidising gym memberships might just be a little more productive than funding yet another study to prove the bleeding obvious.

  • Comment number 431.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 430.

    429. Alan - Maybe I'm just sensitive to these things, but the "s" you put on the end of "routines" gave a completely different feeling to what you wrote, and transformed it from helpful advice into somebody talking down at the plebs. Basil Fawlty's "enjoy your meals!" came to mind. Was it intended? I'm really interested to know.

  • rate this

    Comment number 429.

    If you want to keep fit you can do it quite easily by building exercise into your daily routines.
    It simply takes a modicum of imagination.
    A pair of dumbells doesn't cost much. I started by using squeezy bottle full of sand.
    There are no excuses.
    If you want to achieve anything in life, get and stay physically fit.
    There's no one to blame but yourself.

  • rate this

    Comment number 428.

    427 - You assume alot from a small amount of text. Why?

  • rate this

    Comment number 427.

    407: I hope you poop-scoop after your dog and have a detached house so that nobody else has to hear it bark. Nobody has the right to inflict dog-faeces or dog-noise on anybody else. You can go for a healthy walk without a dog; will-power is just as good. As for the sad types who can't relate to people, only to dogs, don't get me started - they are beneath contempt.

  • rate this

    Comment number 426.

    To know a person look at what they do rather than what they say. The person frustrated about their level of fitness but waiting until 1 January to do something about it isn't being honest with themselves or the people around them. Moving your mind has to come first but it can happen and then it gets a bit special. It isn't a fad, it's a way of living, better. Get a dog, some runners, a bike. Go!


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