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Getting every adult active

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Getting every adult active

Persuading inactive people to become more active could prevent one in ten cases of stroke and heart disease in the UK.

The latest edition of Public Health England’s ‘Health Matters’1 focuses on getting every adult active every day by building physical activity into daily routines. Timed to coincide with the Rio Olympics, which will see images of the world’s leading athletes competing for gold broadcast across the world, it is hoped that this will help motivate more people to take part in sport and to start thinking about their own physical activity

One in four women and one in five men in England are physically inactive, doing less than 30 minutes moderate physical activity a week. This is well below the recommended 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week, set out in guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers.

The guidelines also recommend muscle strengthening activities twice a week, but only 34 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women are achieving this. So why are so many adults struggling to be physically active?

Many people equate physical activity to sweaty gym sessions, and are put off by this, not realising that moderate physical activity can be achieved through everyday life through activities such as brisk walking, dancing, cycling and gardening. 

Key messages from PHE:

  • As long as the activity causes you to get warmer and breathe harder and for your heart to beat faster then it counts as moderate physical activity.
  • Any physical activity is better than none. As little as 10 minutes of moderate physical activity at a time provides numerous health benefits.
  • Physical activity can help to prevent and manage over 20 chronic conditions and diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.

Persuading inactive people to become more active could prevent one in 10 cases of stroke and heart disease in the UK and one in six deaths from any cause. These figures have caused the latest strategy from Sport England2 to focus, for the first time, on encouraging inactive and under-represented groups to become more active. This is where the greatest individual, community and economic gains can be made.

This edition of Health Matters adopts PHE’s national physical activity framework – Everybody Active Every Day3 – which identifies four areas for local and national action that can help to get people active:

  • Active society – People are more likely to be active if it is seen as ‘normal’, and if their friends and peers are also active 
  • Moving professionals – One in four patients would be more active if advised by a GP or nurse
  • Active environments – Our homes, workplaces and local environments should be designed to encourage physical activity
  • Moving at scale – Positive change needs to happen at every level, in every region, and be measurable.

This article is based on the latest edition of Health Matters, which is a resource for professionals that brings together the latest data and evidence, makes the case for effective public health interventions and highlights tools and resources that can facilitate local or national action.

Resources are available on the Health Matters area of the website or by signing up to receive the latest updates via an e-bulletin.


1.     Health Matters: Getting every adult active every day. Public Health England. July 2016.

2.     Sport England: Towards an active nation. Strategy 2016-2021.

3.     Everybody active, every day: a framework to embed physical activity into daily life. Public Health England. November 2014.

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