How Active are Adults in England?


Whatever our age, there is substantial scientific evidence, supported by Public Health England, that being physically active can help us lead healthier lives.

Carrying excess weight can have significant implications for an individual’s physical and mental health, increasing their risk of serious health conditions. Therefore, regular physical activity can help to reduce the risk of many chronic conditions, including coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, mental health problems and musculoskeletal conditions. To reduce the risk of this, Public Health England has set out guidelines for adults from UK Chief Medical Officers. They say, adults in England should aim to take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity (brisk walking or cycling) each week, in spells of 10 minutes or more.


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As well as being physically active, all adults are advised to minimise the time spent sedentary (sitting) for extended periods of time. Many adults spend more than 7 hours per day sedentary, which typically increases with age. Everyone should be encouraged to reduce the amount of sedentary time – even among individuals who are active at the recommended levels.

Public Health England suggests:

  • Reduce time spent watching TV, using a computer or playing video games
  • Take regular breaks during work to avoid sitting for extended periods
  • Break up sedentary time – e.g. when travelling to work on a bus or train, break up the journey by getting off a few stops earlier and walk

Unfortunately, people in the UK are around 20% less active now than in the 1960s. If current trends continue, we will be 35% less active by 2030. Now that technology dominates both at home and work, we must make a conscious effort to make time for physical activity into our daily lives.


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As a result, considered the physical activity rates of 16 to 74 year olds in England and found that, six in 10 were classed as physically active between May 2016 and May 2017.

What professions are the most “inactive”? studied the activity of men and women in different professions in England to find the most “inactive” occupations. Golfsupport analysed data figures from Sport England, who surveyed 193,476 males and females from seven main professions and asked them how much physical activity they partook in each week.

These include:

  • Managerial/professional occupations (e.g. chief executive, doctor, actor, journalist)
  • Secretarial occupations
  • Self-employed
  • Technical occupations (e.g. plumber, gardener, train driver)
  • Shift workers (e.g. postman, shop assistant, bus driver, bartenders)
  • Unemployed
  • Students

GolfSupport found that that there are significant disparities between different socio-economic groups. People who are long-term unemployed are the most likely to be inactive (37%). Shift workers follow next, with a staggering 32% inactive on average. On the other hand, people who are employed in managerial and professional jobs are the fittest profession, with data concluding they are least likely to be inactive (17%).


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How can employers help?

Employers that invest in workplace health can expect to see improvements in productivity and employee performance. It is recommended that employers develop a physical activity policy or plan, based on consultation with staff, and implement an organisation-wide physical activity programme. Employees should be encouraged to be more physically active at work and while travelling.
Physical activity programmes at work have been found to reduce absence by up to 20% and physically active workers take 27% fewer sick days, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Some work-based approaches to increasing physical activity, include:

  • Providing information and advice resources
  • Providing space on site for afterhours exercise classes
  • Organising gym discounts for staff
  • Providing financial incentives relating to the achievement of agreed fitness goals
  • Sponsoring workplace sports/leisure teams
  • Providing flexible working hours to enable exercise


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Gary Swift, MD of has commented:

“Keeping fit is an important aspect of everyday life – it is vital to take care of your body and keep active. This is particularly important when employed in a job involving sitting down for long periods of time on a daily basis, which can obviously have a detrimental effect on your body and health.”
He added: “Over the years I have worked with a number of office and retail workers, where many encourage their employees to participate in group exercise sessions for at least an hour every week. Not only is this a fantastic way to stimulate team-bonding and a great time to socialise, it helps the staff keep fit and healthy. It is clear to see that keeping active does have a positive effect on the performance, relationships and wellbeing of their colleagues.”

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