UK’s Physical Activity Levels Among Lowest in Europe

For more people, a sedentary lifestyle is becoming the norm.

What’s happening: The Sport and Recreation Alliance’s latest report reveals that 36% of UK adults do not meet the official recommendation of 150 minutes of physical activity per week.

Overall, the UK was ranked joint 11th out of 15 European nations with only Italy, Germany and Portugal performing worse with 41%, 42% and 43%, respectively. Conversely, Finland took pole position with just 17% of its population missing the mark.

Why it matters: As kids’ inactivity spirals, along with obesity and mental health cases, the findings linking physical activity with its preventative health and financial impact are being used to inspire change.

  • Inactivity costs the UK £72.13 per inactive adult annually in direct healthcare costs, whereas Finland’s equivalent is £36.92.
  • If the UK was on a par with Finland – for which it would need to make 10.1M inactive people active – it could generate £1B in healthcare cuts.
  • This would also add £3.65B to GDP and generate £71B through increased well-being.

For context: Lobbying politicians, this report forms part of a new pledge from the National Sector Partners Group – including The Sport and Recreation Alliance, ukactive, Active Partnerships and others – to become “the most active nation in Europe”.

It draws on recent findings from Sport England that showed how every £1 spent on sport and physical activity could return £3.91 in economic and social benefits, generating £9.5B in total.

But… with 75% of Brits unaware of the recommended activity levels, and 38% believing it’s sub-90 minutes per week, hitting activity targets could be challenging.

Takeaway: Fitness leaders lobbying the government is nothing new. However, with the UK General Election looming, this smartly timed pledge to become Europe’s health heavyweight – along with a growing body of evidence correlating the nation’s health and financial gain – could be a goal MPs will rally around.

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