The UK is less physically active than at any time “in all human history”, a new parliamentary report claimed, and the Government could save lives and cut billions of pounds from the NHS budget simply by encouraging exercise.
The All-Party Parliamentary Commission on Physical Activity, led by cross-bench peer and Paralympic gold medallist Tanni Grey-Thompson, said that lack of exercise leads to around 37,000 premature deaths a year in England alone.
Associated increases in rates of diabetes and heart disease are putting pressure on the health service, and absenteeism from work add to the burden, said the Commission, which is made of MPs from all three main parties.
The group said that the success of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games hand been of benefit, but that the scale of what they called the UK’s “epidemic of physical inactivity” was “daunting”.
Latest estimates suggest that more than a third of adults and nearly half of children in England fail to meet daily recommended levels of physical activity, but some experts have suggested that the self-reported figures underestimate the problem. Similarly high levels of inactivity are reported in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
The Commission’s report, which is being backed by the British Heart Foundation as well as the Premier League and the Lawn Tennis Association, will be presented to David Cameron today. It is backed by the global sports brand Nike, which has sponsored research which suggested that inactivity costs the UK £20 billion every year.
The authors are calling for the creation to of an independent body dedicated to improving physical activity. Tactics include encouraging employers to incentivise walking to work, and reallocating more transport funding from road-building to cycle and foot paths.