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Physical activity (2021)

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Topic title Physical activity (2021)
Topic owner David Johns, Consultant in Public Health
Topic author(s) Amanda Chambers, Strategic Lead, Active Together Nottingham
Topic quality reviewed May 2021
Topic endorsed by Active Together Nottingham Leadership Board and Physical Activity, Obesity and Diet Strategy Group
Topic approved by Active Together Nottingham Leadership Board and Physical Activity, Obesity and Diet Strategy Group
Current version April 2021
Replaces version 2016
Linked JSNA topics
Insight Document ID 84106

Executive summary

Physical activity is the single most important way to improve your physical and mental health” Dr Jenny Harries, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England January 2021

The wide range of physical and mental health benefits of physical activity for general and special populations are substantial. The evidence is particularly robust for the general adult population and for people with pre-existing medical conditions. The benefits of being active extend well beyond physical health and wellbeing.

  • A 1% reduction in the rates of inactivity each year for 5 years would save the UK around £1.2 billion (1)
  • Estimated that physical inactivity costs the UK economy approximately £20 billion every year (2)
  1. UK Active: Turning the tide of inactivity
  2. Sport England: Towards an Active Nation

The greatest health impact can be gained by concentrating on the inactive. The WHO Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018-2030 also recognises the important co-benefits of physical activity that accrue to sectors and settings beyond health.

Sport England publish the Active Lives Adult Survey (4) (which is conducted for Sport England by Ipsos MORI) twice a year providing data and insight into activity levels of over 16s in England. The latest available report presents data from the Active Lives Adult Survey for the period November 2019 to November 2020. The latest activity levels for adults in England and Nottingham as measured through this survey are:


Nottingham City


Active: an average of 150+ minutes a week




Fairly Active: an average of 30 -149 minutes a week



Inactive: less than an average of 30 minutes a week



Unmet need and gaps

Despite evidence of activity levels in the city and country increasing prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there continue to be stubborn inequalities in physical activity in specific groups in the community.

  • disabled people and those with long term conditions
  • people from lower socio-economic groups
  • older people
  • women
  • people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups.

The disruption that COVID-19 pandemic has caused has reinforced and even exacerbated these inequalities in physical activity, significantly impacting on physical and mental health and wellbeing and quality life of these groups and now new groups whose physical activity behaviour has also been disproportionally affected by the pandemic.

  • People living alone
  • People without children in the household
  • People shielding/self-isolating because they are at increased risk
  • People without access to private outdoor space or access to green space

A focus is therefore required on helping to remove the barriers to activity and providing opportunities to people and communities that are experiencing these inequalities.

Recommendations for consideration by commissioners

  1. Adopt a whole system approach
  2. Adopt a co-production approach
  3. Engage differently and more widely
  4. Develop local and accessible activity opportunities and infrastructure
  5. Improve access to green/blue space and nature
  6. Support capacity in the community and voluntary sector
  7. Invest most in those that need it most
  8. Adopt an asset based, community centred approach
  9. Be insight led
  10. Adopt the recommendations from the NHS system leaders in whole systems approaches to physical activity research
  11. Support disabled people to become more active
  12. Support older people and those with long-term conditions to be more active
  13. Support a more sustainable, strategic and joined up approach to funding opportunities
  14. Embed physical activity into the recovery plans for the city

Key contacts

David Johns, Public Health Consultant, Nottingham City Council,


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