The latest Active Lives Survey by Sport England provides a picture of adult physical activity and volunteering across the country. In reporting their findings, Sport England categorise the degree of activity into three broad levels: Inactive; Fairly Active; and Active. At the same time, a House of Commons briefing runs through the range of obesity statistics for adults and children, mapping the broad levels by local authority area.
The good news is that nearly 62% of the majority of adults in England are categorised as Active, meaning that some 27.7 million adults are getting at least 150 minutes of active exercise a week. However, less positively, just over a quarter of adults are Inactive, meaning 11.5 million people are doing less than 30 minutes of exercise a week. With only 12.5% or 5.6 million adults falling into the Fairly Active category and with physical activity being very widely defined, it would seem that there is a significant challenge to increase this number from the ranks of the Inactive.
Bearing in mind there is only two years’ worth of full data for this version of the activity survey, Sport England say it is “too early to meaningfully talk about trends over time”. In any case, the national results show virtually no change from last year’s survey.
West Midlands - the top and bottom of it
That is not to say that there have not been changes below national level, although for the West Midlands these were statistically insignificant. Regardless, this leaves the West Midlands with the lowest percentage of Active adults in England. At 57.6%, it was the only region where the Active cohort made up less than 60% of the total. Winning the plaudits at the other end of the table, the South West had over 65% in the most active group.
Unfortunately, the West Midlands did manage to top the table for the highest rates of inactivity. Clocking in at 29.5%, this is well above the England average of 25.7% let alone the 22.7% of the best performing regions, the South West and the South East. In terms of numbers, this means there are nearly 1.4 million adults in the West Midlands classified as inactive.
Local rates may vary
Needless to say, activity rates can vary significantly from place to place and Sport England also has data for each local authority and County Sports Partnership area. With 68.5% of Active adults and only 20.3% of Inactive adults, Worcester for example, is at the right end of both of these West Midlands tables.
The figures also show a number of areas in the West Midlands that Sport England consider to have experienced a “significant” change since last year’s report. Warwick, for example has seen a 10% fall in the Active category and a 10% increase in the Inactive one. Telford and Wrekin has also seen a significant decrease in the Active group of 8.6%, while the Inactive group has grown by nearly 11%. There is better news for the people of Staffordshire Moorlands, however, where the Inactive group has decreased by nearly 11%.
Of course, the make-up of the population varies from council to council and the Sport England report shows the relationships between different characteristics and activity rates. For example, people who are long-term unemployed or have never worked are the most likely to be inactive (38%) and least likely to be active (49%). On the other hand, people who are in managerial, administrative and profession occupations are the least likely to be inactive (17%) and the most likely to be active (71%).
In looking at other characteristics, the report shows how activity varies by age, disability and gender, as well as assessing the relationship between volunteering and well-being. On this last point, Sport England indicate that higher activity rates are associated with better mental health and that “volunteering is positively associated with individual development”.
House of Commons briefing on obesity
In the context of Sport England’s report, it is probably worth flagging-up the recent House of Commons briefing on obesity. The briefing contains a great deal of information about trends, perceptions of weight and weight loss, obesity by age, gender and deprivation, and the variation in the rates of obese and overweight adults and children across England. Indeed, a substantial part of the briefing is given over to dealing with childhood obesity.
While the briefing doesn’t contain much in the way of local area data, there are maps showing the general level of overweight and obesity in different areas, and the performance of some authorities is highlighted where they are noteworthy. Sandwell, for example, is mentioned as one of the ten local authorities with the highest rates of overweight and obese adults, while Wolverhampton and Dudley both feature in the list of the ten authorities with the highest proportions of 4-5 year olds who are overweight or obese in England.