Tackling Physical Inactivity – a coordinated approach

The UK faces an epidemic of physical inactivity. Over the last half century we have simply stopped moving—in our schools, our work places, our towns, cities—and how we get between them. In all human history, we have never been so inactive. But the human body was designed to move, and this slow down in activity has seen significant consequences to our health and economy.

This is the first of two reports from the All-Party Parliamentary Commission on Physical Activity, which was set up in 2013. Here we set out the scale and scope of the problem, mapping out the specific areas in which we need to work for change. In the second report we will make some tangible suggestions on how we can begin to tackle this epidemic. We are not starting from zero. The legacy of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games provides a platform and momentum to make critical progress and the 2014 Commonwealth Games will give further impetus this summer.

But the facts are daunting: Over half of adults in the UK do not meet the guidelines for daily physical activity. And an even smaller percentage of children reach the guideline levels set for young people. Physical inactivity leads to around 37,000 premature deaths a year – A number that is more than all deaths from murder, suicide and accidents combined. Lack of physical activity is estimated to double the rate of absenteeism at work, and is estimated to cost the UK economy billions every year.

The solution is in our hands – all of our hands. We can turn back this toxic tide of inactivity but only if everyone plays a role; from teachers to medics, town planners to transport chiefs, big business to charities, national to local politicians, parents to children to grandparents – you and me. Only a collaborative approach can bring about the scale of change required. Encouragingly, The All-Party Commission on Physical Activity received a substantial response to our call for ideas and evidence. We heard oral evidence from 49 witnesses from national and local government as well as the private and third sectors and from fields as diverse as transport, health, education, and sport. We’ve also had an impressive number of written submissions, including many from members of the public with a passion for sharing ideas and seeing real change.

This is the first step. Our second report will further draw upon the enormous amount of evidence we gained to detail more actions we can take to get the UK moving again – because the facts show that the current status-quo is simply no longer an option.

Let’s get moving…