Poor areas suffer 'inactivity pandemic'

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A "pandemic" of inactivity in poor areas of England is leading to premature deaths, a report shows.

The analysis by UKactive, which represents the leisure industry, found 13 of the 15 local authorities where people were the most inactive were in the most deprived parts of the country.

Between 35% and 40% of adults in these areas are classed as inactive - that is exercising less than 30 minutes a week.

That compares with a figure of 28% nationally.

Where inactivity levels were at their highest, early deaths also peaked, according to the analysis based on the Active People Survey, which is commissioned by Sport England.

In the 15 most inactive local authorities, there was an average of 342 premature deaths per 100,000 people per year, compared with 242 in those where people exercised the most. The only areas in the 15 most inactive not to be in the most deprived areas of England were Slough and Dudley.

The report urged councils, which took on responsibility for public health last year, to use more of their budgets to promote physical activity.

Data obtained from 85 out of 129 councils under the Freedom of Information Act showed they spent just 2% of their public health budgets on physical activity promotion and investment.

This was in "stark contrast" to the 38% spent on sexual health and 12% on alcohol misuse, the report said.

Researchers also found that the most inactive local authorities have, on average, a third fewer leisure facilities than the least inactive areas.

Cutting physical inactivity by just 1% a year over a five-year period would save the UK economy just under £1.2bn in health and economic gains, the report said.

'Urgent action'

Fred Turok, chairman of Ukactive, said: "It's no longer acceptable that physical inactivity remains the forgotten cause of death in the UK.

"More deprived areas are faring worse in a physical inactivity pandemic - with no national strategy to improve our fitness levels."

Lord Sebastian Coe, who is backing the report, said: "There is no doubt that the issue requires immediate national attention and urgent action."

But Prof Kevin Fenton, of Public Health England, said his organisation and local government were "committed" to increasing physical activity levels.

"Physical activity is undertaken across communities in a range of ways, from walking and cycling, through fitness, leisure and play to structured amateur and elite sport.

"We need to embrace and support this diversity through cross-sector collaboration and action to embed physical activity within daily life," he added.

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