Cross-party Parliamentarians launch new report to fight physical inactivity crisis

Politicians from all parties join forces to help get our children moving

Every year physical inactivity costs UK economy £20bn

 A new report launched today by a cross-party group of politicians sets out clear recommendations to tackle the growing physical inactivity epidemic in the UK. Co-authored by Crossbench Peer, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlotte Leslie MP, Julian Huppert MP, and Barbara Keeley MP, the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity report offers recommendations and solutions to help get us back on track.

This is the first of two reports from the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity, which was set up in October 2013. The first report, launched today, sets out the scale and scope of the problem, and maps out the specific areas that will require change.

Supporting the report is a powerful coalition of multi-sector organisations, including British Heart Foundation, Lawn Tennis Association, Sustrans, Nike, Premier League, and The Young Foundation.

The report’s authors, Chief Executives from the coalition, along with support from Lord Coe, and leading athletes including Paula Radcliffe, cyclist Mark Cavendish, and Arsenal footballer Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, will deliver a copy of the report to the three main parties and 10 Downing Street this morning to discuss the urgent need to address this crisis through a collaborative, cross-party approach.

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, said:

“Physical activity is incredibly important to the wellbeing of children and adults, and can play a big part in helping people lead healthier lifestyles.

“That is why I have already committed to doing more to promote sport in our schools, with £150m guaranteed each year for the rest of this decade, and asked Lord Coe to report back to me on raising the level of physical activity across Britain as part of the Olympic and Paralympic legacy.

“But I want everyone to look at what more can be done and this report will help inform that work.”

The Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, DL: “The threat that obesity poses to our society cannot be under-estimated.  I am delighted that the different sectors who can effect a change in this area have come together to give evidence, and with their guidance I hope that we can raise awareness of the importance of physical activity and start work on helping to eradicate the obesity epidemic.”

Dr Julian Huppert MP: “Inactivity poses huge problems for our health, and yet far too many of us do very little physical activity, if any. It’s not about being a top sportsperson, it’s about doing something regularly – something we can all manage. We can all walk or cycle more often, find time to go for a swim or a jog, or join a local sports club. It’s not hard and it does matter.

“Otherwise, we will continue to face growing obesity levels, more diabetes and other illnesses, worsening our health and how we will be able to live our lives when we are older. It also costs the country a huge amount of money!

“We should all make sure that we are physically active, and that our children are too.”

Charlotte Leslie MP: “This report is just the first step in beginning to tackle this toxic tidal-wave of physical inactivity. In our follow-up report, I look forward to really getting to grips with what exactly we can do to help people change their own lives on a day – to -day basis. Make no mistake, this is an epic mission and there is no quick, short-term solution. But that does not mean this is not worth doing – it is all the more reason to start now.”

Barbara Keeley MP: “The evidence the Commission heard on the health issues caused by inactivity was compelling. The scale of harm caused by physical inactivity is similar to that caused by smoking but the hazards of smoking are much better known to the public. Our report aims to highlight the serious implications of physical inactivity for the health of men, women and children in the UK and to spur policy makers into action.”

The report calls for the creation of a cross-sector and cross-departmental National Action Plan supported by the leaders of all the three major political parties. Other recommendations include:

  1. Raise awareness by implementing a public health campaign focused on the benefits of physical activity.
  2. Track progress by developing and introducing a standardised measure of physical activity across the UK, and standardised evaluation of investments.
  3. Ensure local and national policy supports the design of physical activity back into everyday life through active travel and leisure (such as walking and cycling to school or work) and making ‘active workplaces’ the norm.
  4. Make physical activity a lifelong habit by providing early access to positive experiences for children in sports, physical education, and active play.


Simon Gillespie, Chief Executive of the British Heart Foundation, said: “Physical activity is a vital way of helping lower our risk of coronary heart disease, the UK’s single biggest killer. Put simply, we need to move more. Keeping active helps maintain a healthy weight and can help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which can put our hearts at risk. A simple way to create lifelong healthy habits is to build physical activity into everyday routines in childhood. If we make schools and workplaces more active we can help today’s children move towards a healthier future.”


Marc van Pappelendam, VP/GM, Nike UK & Ireland, said “Active children do better, in every aspect of life – physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. Once a natural part of daily life, physical activity has become undervalued, when in truth, it is critical for every child. We all have a role in helping create an active society, from schools and cities, to workplaces and communities. We fully endorse the report from the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity.”

The Young Foundation

Simon Willis, CEO of The Young Foundation, said: “Physical inactivity is one of the determinants of health inequalities. But more activity can also deliver a range of benefits in health, wellbeing, productivity, and a host of other areas. The Young Foundation is committed to finding ways to help to get people moving. The final report of the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity provides a clear roadmap on how we can get this started. We need support from all of the major political parties for an issue this important.”

Lord Sebastian Coe

“Not many people are aware that physical inactivity currently accounts for nearly one-fifth of premature deaths in the UK. With projections showing that inactivity levels are due to increase by a further 15% by 2030 there is no doubt that the issue requires immediate national attention and urgent action. The report from the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity represents a true shift in how governments, NGBs, corporations, and the civil sector can work together in shaping the world’s perception of sport and physical activity.”

Lawn Tennis Association

Michael Downey, Chief Executive of the LTA said “Today’s report shines a light on the serious issue of physical inactivity in society, and that action is needed now to promote the important role sport and physical activity needs to play across peoples whole lives. This is an issue that requires many people and organisations to work together to deliver change. We in British tennis want to play our part in this campaign – whether it’s through our education or community programmes – to help make a difference.”


Sustrans Chief Executive Malcolm Shepherd, said: “The easiest and single most effective way of increasing physical activity is to transform our daily journeys to school, work or leisure into active journeys by walking or cycling. The average primary school journey is just 1.5 miles – the perfect distance to walk or cycle. If eight out of ten primary school journeys were made by bike or on foot, many of our physical activity ambitions would be realized. Making the public realm welcoming for walking and cycling is the key to increasing physical activity. This means simple things such as better pavements and cycle lanes, lower speeds and a public commitment to funding for active travel.”

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For more information, please contact Victoria Willis, Nicola Biles, Alex Try, or John Davies at Blue Rubicon on 0207 2602700 or 

Notes to Editors

Over the last six months, the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity has held five evidence sessions to hear from over 40 organisations and individuals across four key sectors – Health, Sport, Transport & Urban Planning, and Education; hosted two evidence sessions for MPs and Peers; and received over 150 submissions of written evidence. Oral and written evidence has been received from individual citizens, and from organisations such as The National Trust, British Athletics, and Public Health England.

For a full copy of the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity report please visit here.

Twitter hashtag

The hashtag for the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity report is #ActivityCommission

Champions and Supporters:

The All-Party Commission on Physical Activity is supported by the Premier League, Sustrans, British Heart Foundation, The Young Foundation, Lawn Tennis Association, Nike, and Lord Sebastian Coe.

  • Premier League The Barclays Premier League is the biggest continuous annual global sporting event in the world. Last season more than 13m fans attended matches with average stadium occupancy in excess of 95%.  Across nine months of the year, 380 matches are viewed in 212 territories worldwide. Coverage of the matches is available in over 800m households with an estimated cumulative global audience of 4.7bn.
  • Sustrans is the charity that’s enabling people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of the journeys we make every day. It’s time we all began making smarter travel choices. Make your move and support Sustrans today.
  • British Heart Foundation Coronary heart disease is the UK’s single biggest killer. For over 50 years we’ve pioneered research that’s transformed the lives of people living with heart and circulatory conditions. Our work has been central to the discoveries of vital treatments that are changing the fight against heart disease. But so many people still need our help. From babies born with life-threatening heart problems to the many Mums, Dads and Grandparents who survive a heart attack and endure the daily battles of heart failure. Join our fight for every heartbeat in the UK. Every pound raised, minute of your time and donation to our shops will help make a difference to people’s lives.
  • The Young Foundation is determined to make positive social change happen. We pioneered the field of social innovation with The Open University, UpRising and Studio Schools. We work closely with individuals, communities and partners building relationships to ensure that our thinking does something, our actions matter and the changes we make together will continue to grow.
  •  Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is the national governing body for British tennis. Its mission is to get more people playing tennis more often, and its role is to develop, promote and govern tennis in Britain. To find a playing partner, local court or coach please visit
  • NIKE, Inc. based near Beaverton, Ore., is the world’s leading designer, marketer and distributor of authentic athletic footwear, apparel, equipment and accessories for a wide variety of sports and fitness activities. Wholly-owned NIKE, Inc. subsidiaries include Converse Inc., which designs, markets and distributes athletic lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories; and Hurley International LLC, which designs, markets and distributes surf and youth lifestyle footwear, apparel and accessories. For more information, visit  and follow @Nike.
  • Designed to Move is a call-to-action supported by a community of public, private and civil sector organizations dedicated to ending the growing epidemic of physical inactivity. For more information, please visit




Concluding Session

On 24 February the Commission held its final oral evidence session, hearing evidence from Andy Reed of the Sport and Recreation Alliance; Liam Burns from the Scout Association; Jane Montgomery, the Federation of Sport and Play Associations; Anna Scott-Marshall from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA); and Martin Corck, Director of Inspired Exchange.

An area of focus of the session was the new role models needed to inspire people of all ages to do more physical activity, to complement the profiling of elite athletes, and to break down any barriers of participation.

The role of the workplace in increasing physical activity was also discussed, both how employees can be more active during the working day and how their employers can facilitate this, but also in allowing employees time to volunteer in roles promoting physical activity such as with youth groups and sports team.

Finally, the issue of green spaces was raised by a number of witnesses, addressing the need for more outdoor spaces and ways in which they can be made available.


The Education session of the All Party Commission took place on 29th January 2014, with evidence given by: Margaret Talbot of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education; Anna Cain and Jordan Clarke from the Boxing Academy; Charlie Dark, founder of Run Dem Crew; Brian Dickens, Director of the Community Action Zone at Lilian Baylis Old School; David Bond at Project Wild Thing; Sarah Blackwell representing Forest Schools; Derek Peaple, headmaster of Park House School; and athlete and parent Paula Radcliffe MBE.

The session showcased some fantastic projects around the UK that are engaging young people both in and outside of regular education, and demonstrated how physical activity can help achieve better educational and developmental outcomes in a range of areas. These benefits include giving participants more confidence, the possibility to interact with other young people and adults to develop social skills, better concentration and energy in the classroom, and setting them up for long, healthy lives.

A strong emphasis was placed on the need for the curriculum to re-prioritise physical education in order to help children integrate different activities into their daily lives, as well as experience both competitive and non-competitive environments.



On 11th February the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity held its fourth oral evidence session on the topic of Sport, chaired by The Baroness Grey-Thompson DBE, DL. The witnesses came from a broad spectrum of the industry: Catherine Prisk of Play England; Mandy Ayres from Nike and in her capacity as Chair of Public Affairs Group at the Federation of the European Sporting Goods Industry; Emma Boggis, Head of the Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Unit at the Cabinet Office, and Mike Diaper of Sport England; Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation and English Federation of Disability Sport represented by Tim Woodhouse and Chris Ratcliffe; Tom Gibbins at the Tennis Foundation, and academic Professor Richard Bailey of Liverpool John Moores University also in attendance.

Echoing comments from previous sessions, there was an emphasis on the need for sporting activities to be engaging and fun for people of all ages, and to give young people in particular access to a wide range of different sport options. This in turn would help them find an activity they enjoy and to motivate them towards long-term participation. The Olympic Legacy was a strong theme, with witnesses analysing how we can capitalise on the success of the Games and other sporting events in order to get people in the UK to be more active. Witnesses also highlighted the need to make people more positive about playing sports as much as spectating, and the importance of supporting professionals.

A range of critical partners were referenced, including all relevant Government Departments, UKTI, schools and teachers, and sports National Governing Bodies – there was also discussion of the critical role of mothers in integrating physical activity into family life.


15 January 2014 saw a group of expert witnesses give evidence on the health benefits of physical activity and health consequences of physical inactivity, chaired by Barbara Keeley MP. The witnesses were: Dr William Bird MBE of Intelligent Health, Elaine McNish from Macmillan Cancer Support, Murray Dadswell from Flames – an initiative run by Loughborough University and the BHF – Professor Peter Weissberg of the British Hearth Foundation, Dr Charlie Foster, Councillors from the Local Government Association Tourism & Sport Board and Professor Kevin Fenton of Public Health England.
The witness panel were in agreement that physical activity has a significant, proven impact on both prevention of and recuperation from medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and some cancers, but that action must be taken to communicate this to the physically inactive. Discussion also centred on how healthcare groups and Government can promote types of physical activity that are not necessarily focused on sport. The importance of educating people from all backgrounds and communities on ways which they can move more, whatever their circumstances or current state of health was also highlighted.
The group concluded that with budget restrictions affecting many health groups and local authorities, the key is for different groups (be they involved in health, education, sport local government and beyond) to find ways of doing more with existing resources and making them more accessible.


On 30 October 2013 the Parliamentary Commission on Physical Activity heard evidence from a diverse group of witnesses on the subject on Transport and Urban Planning. The panel of Cross-Party MPs and Peers, chaired by Julian Huppert MP, heard views from charities and campaign groups Sustrans, Playing Out and Living Streets, academics Professor Sir Andy Haines and Professor Roger Mackett, Liverpool Active City and pupils and staff from Sunnydale Community College.

Issues discussed included ways to incorporate activity into children’s daily routines to enable them to reach the recommended target of 60 minutes of physical activity per day, along with some of the funding, facilities and infrastructure improvements needed to achieve this goal. Witnesses shared their experiences of existing schemes, helping the panel to understand what models and programmes currently exist, with analysis of what is working and what is not.

It was clear from the evidence shared that at the heart of improving levels of physical activity through transport and urban planning is grassroots engagement with children, parents and communities to create safe environments which enable people to get active.

All-Party Commission on Physical Activity launched, October 2013

This press release was distributed in October 2013 to mark the launch of the Commission

MPs and peers launch new Commission aimed at increasing levels of physical activity among children

New poll data shows UK parents concerned over lack of physical activity in children, as 70% do less than the recommended weekly amount


Today marks the launch of the first ever Commission on Physical Activity, chaired by politicians from across the political spectrum: (Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlotte Leslie MP, Julian Huppert MP, and Barbara Keeley MP). The new Commission is confronting the urgent issue of physical inactivity in children in the UK. The Commission is supported by: the British Heart Foundation; Sustrans; Premier League; Lawn Tennis Association; Nike; The Young Foundation; Lord Sebastian Coe; as well as a number of high profile sportsmen and women such as world class athletes Mark Cavendish and Dai Greene.

The Commission will take a cross-sector approach to investigating the physical inactivity epidemic, taking evidence from organisations and individuals across the Health, Sport, Transport & Urban Planning, and Education sectors. It will make direct, policy-based recommendations on how to get children and young people moving more in everyday life, in an independent report to be published in March 2014.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said:

“To fight the epidemic of physical inactivity in the UK, and get more children moving, we need a collaborative approach. The Commission on Physical Activity will be taking evidence from many different experts and sectors and I encourage everyone with something to say to take part. We will be making recommendations on what needs to change, to make physical activity an enjoyable part of everyday life, for every child.”

Mark Cavendish said:

“Everyone should be concerned about the levels of physical activity amongst children in the UK and globally.  I got inspired to get on my bike young and being involved in sport has become a massive part of my life. It’s so important that kids get active at an early age and create a sporting habit for life. I’m really pleased to be at today’s launch of the new Commission and see this issue on the political agenda.”

To coincide with the launch of the Commission, new polling carried out by Populus (of 1502 parents of children aged between 3-11 yrs old) reveals that many parents believe that children nowadays do not take part in enough physical activity. 62% say they would like to see their children moving more and 70% of parents admit their children do six hours or less of physical activity per week – less than the recommended daily amount of activity for children of 60 minutes per day[i].

  • Nearly half (44%) of parents feel that their child does less physical activity than they did themselves when young – those parents felt this difference is mainly due to increased concerns around child safety (61%) and a greater reliance on and access to technology (41%). Greater costs, having less time available and greater reliance on other methods of transport were also mentioned as common barriers[ii].
  • When asked which activities their child spends most time doing (excluding school sports lessons) the majority of parents (61%) stated walking to school – 40% said swimming, 33% said playing organised sports and 25% said cycling. Parents of younger children stated that using a mini scooter is a favoured activity of choice[iii].
  • Parents identified the main barriers to getting their children moving, as being concern over child safety when playing outside (37%), cost of equipment / club membership (36%) and lack of their time to accompany the child (30%) – on average, parents spent 2.05 hours every week doing (or supervising) physical activity with their children. A third (35%) of respondents said they spend just up to 1 hour.
  • Parents use a number of different methods to encourage their children to do physical activity. The most common methods included making physical exercise fun (63%), making it part of daily life (49%), and taking part in physical activity with their child (41%).
  • Parents are acutely aware of the benefits of exercise, with almost two-thirds (64%) citing health benefits as the main benefit for the child being physically active – benefits such as young people who are active being more likely to be successful in life[iv], or be less likely to smoke or take drugs[v] were less well known[vi].

The polling of parents supports recent research from the BMJ’s “How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study” which found only half of 7 year-olds in the UK achieve recommended levels of physical activity[vii]. Further research from Designed To Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda[viii], shows that from 1961 to 2005, levels of physical activity in the UK dropped by 20% and if current trends continue, will reduce by more than 35% by 2030[ix]. As a direct result, obesity, diabetes and many more health disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent. Physical inactivity also costs the UK economy £20 billion annually (almost the entire NHS annual efficiency target)[x].

In addition to evidence from experts across the Health, Sport, Transport & Urban Planning, and Education sectors, the Commission also welcomes the submission of oral or written evidence from individuals and organisations across any sector, from parents, policy makers and teachers to ministers and party leaders. Evidence can be submitted online before 31st December via

The Commission will publish an independent report, written in partnership with The Young Foundation, which will be published in March 2014 and make recommendations to policy makers and party leaders on how to end this crisis of physical inactivity.


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Notes to Editors


Polling methodology:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Populus.  Total sample size was 1,502 adults who have a child or children aged between 3 – 11 years old. Where a respondent had more than one child within this age range they were asked to respond regarding their eldest child in the age group. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 22nd October.  The survey was carried out online.



[i] When asked how much physical activity their child does per week 70% of respondents answered that their child spends less than 6 hours doing physical activity per week. Physical activity was defined as continuous movement for a period of at least 10 minutes with a purpose (i.e. walking to school/clubs, active play, organised sports). The recommended daily amount of activity for children is 60 minutes per day (Department of Health. Start active, stay active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. 11-7-0011).

[ii] Of those parents who answered that their child does less activity than they did, 35% cited greater costs, 27% cited less time available and 26% cited greater reliance on other methods of transport as causes.

[iii] 30% of parents of 3-4 year olds, and 32% of parents of 5-7 year olds cited using a mini scooter as one of the activities their child spends most time doing excluding physical activity during school sports lessons.

[iv] When asked for their opinion on the main benefits of their child being physically active 5% of respondents cited that their child would benefit by being more successful in their life. Research shows that active teenagers will be more likely to score higher on achievement tests (Grissom, J. (2005). Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement. Journal of Exercise Physiology, 8(1), pp.11-25, as cited in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012)) and go to college (Lleras, C. (2008). Do skills and behaviours in high school matter? The contribution of noncognitive factors in explaining differences in educational attainment and earnings. Social Science Research. 37, pp. 888-902, as cited in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012)).

[v] When asked for their opinion on the main benefits of their child being physically active 5% of respondents cited a benefit as being that their child would be less likely to smoke, drink or take drugs. However, research has shown that young people who participate in organized sports at school or in their communities are less likely to engage in risky behaviours, such as cigarette smoking and drug use, than non-sports participants. Jones-Palm D H, Palm J. “Physical Activity and Its Impact On Health Behaviour Among Youth” World Health Organisation (2005), as cited in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).

[vii] BMJ “How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study” by Lucy Griffiths, Mario Cortina-Borja, Francesco Sera, et al. BMJ Open 2013 3: doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-00289.

[viii]  MacCallum L., Howson N., Gopu N, Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).

[ix] Ng S. W. and Popkin B. “Time Use and Physical Activity: a shift away from movement across the globe.” As referenced in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).

[x] Chaaban, J. “The Economic Costs of Physical Inactivity.” (2012), as referenced in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).