Overview of Physical Activity

Why is physical activity important?

According to Public Health England, we are now around 20% less active than in 1961. If current trends continue, we will be 35% less active by 2030.  With an ageing population facing a range of health challenges across the life course, including obesity and various long-term conditions, high levels of inactivity has serious implications.

Physical inactivity is now the fourth largest cause of disease and disability in the UK and directly contributes to one in six deaths - roughly the same number as smoking. Inactivity is linked to conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, dementia, stroke, heart disease, hypertension and mental illness. Regular physical activity helps to prevent and alleviate these conditions and is essential for physical and mental health and wellbeing.

  • Long-term conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory disease lead to greater dependency on home, residential and ultimately nursing care. Being active at every age reduces the risk of these conditions and improves our chances of being healthy and independent.
  • Physical activity boosts energy levels, increases workplace productivity and reduces sickness absence. Businesses with active workforces have lower sickness rates and lower staff turnover.
  • Physical activity can foster connections with other people through volunteering and trying new activities, reducing social isolation and promoting community spirit.
  • Vision 2030

    More people in Sandwell suffer the consequences of physical inactivity because fewer people in the borough are active compared to regional and national activity levels. Increasing the levels of activity in Sandwell will help us achieve the council’s 2030 vision of Sandwell being ‘a place where we live healthy lives and live them for longer’.

    Physical activity in Sandwell

    More people in Sandwell suffer the consequences of physical inactivity because fewer people in the borough are active compared to regional and national activity levels.  Sport England’s 2018 Active Lives survey data shows the extent of the problem - an extra 20,420 physically inactive people would have to start doing any physical activity for Sandwell to reach the national average.

    The low level of physical activity in Sandwell contributes to:

  • A higher percentage of adults being classed as overweight or obese than regional and national rates
  • Preventable deaths from cardiovascular disease being higher than regional and national rates
  • Lower healthy life expectancy than the regional and national averages for women and men
  • Physical activity levels vary across demographic groups in Sandwell and this creates significant health inequalities:

  • Women are less physically active than men
  • People are less physically active as they get older
  • People with disabilities and long-term conditions are less active than people without these conditions
  • Black and minority ethnic groups are less physically active than White British people
  • People in lower socio-economic groups are less active than people in higher socio-economic groups
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people may face barriers to taking part in sport and physical activity
  • Of all the demographic influences on physical, socio-economic class is particularly important in Sandwell.  Research shows that people of lower socio-economic status are less likely to make healthy choices such as exercising regularly and eating fruit and vegetables daily.

    People living in deprived areas are twice as likely to be physically inactive as those living in more prosperous areas. The 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation ranked Sandwell the 13th most deprived local authority in the country out of a total of 326. The link between deprivation and low levels of physical activity is confirmed by Sport England’s 2017/2018 Active Lives survey which ranked Sandwell 13th of 326 local authorities for physical inactivity (where 1 is the most inactive and 326 is the least inactive).

    Evidence around physical activity

    Public Health England’s report, ‘Everybody active, every day: An evidence-based approach to physical activity’, outlines evidence on the consequences of inactivity, demographic differences in inactivity, and the benefit of focusing on people who are inactive.

    Moving those who are inactive to a significant level of activity would have the greatest benefit, but any shift helps. There is a three-year difference in life expectancy between people who are inactive and people who are minimally active.  This is an incentive to focus on the most inactive people. The diagram below reinforces the impact of even a small amount of physical activity for someone who is inactive.


    A full evaluation of the CANs programme is currently underway, which will include a series of recommendations for future projects/ programmes.

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