Only 5% of adults take sufficient exercise to be healthy
Friday, 18 December 2009
Only 5% of people in England are taking enough exercise to meet the levels recommended by the government, according to new figures.
The NHS Information Centre said only around one in 20 adults were as active as the government says they should be in order to remain healthy.
However, while few people actually meet the government's recommended guidelines for weekly physical activity, many more (about one in three) say they do.
Health Survey for England – 2008: Physical activity and fitness is the first survey of its scale to capture how much exercise people say they do, but also how much they actually do.
The truth is that there is a sharp contrast between the two, suggesting people may be exaggerating to researchers the extent of their physical activity or simply misjudging how much they are doing.
The Department of Health recommends adults should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise, five days a week, but the annual survey showed that 94% of men and 96% of women did not achieve this.
For the survey, 15,102 adults were asked to recall how much physical activity they had done over the previous four weeks.
During a subsequent week, a sample of those surveyed (around 3,300) then wore an accelerometer to measure their physical activity.
When asked how much moderate exercise they recalled taking over the past month, 38% of men and 29% of women thought they had hit the target.
However, when researchers from the National Centre for Social Research and University College London gave a representative sample of the interviewees the accelerometer to wear for a week – it showed a very different picture.
Of those who said they had met or exceeded the government's guidelines, only around 10% of men and 8% of women then did so during the week of wearing their accelerometers.
For children and young people, the government recommends they should do a minimum of 60 minutes each day of at least moderate intensity physical activity.
A survey of 7,521 children showed that, based on self reported physical activity, 32% of boys and 24% of girls aged two to 15 were achieving the guideline.
The results based on the accelerometer readings were similar with 33% of boys and 21% of girls meeting the guidelines. However, accelerometry indicates a larger differentiation between older and younger children.
NHS Information Centre's chief executive Tim Straughan said: “What's clear is that there is a stark mismatch between how much adults say they are doing and what they are doing in reality.
“However, activity levels are lower than recommended for the vast majority of us, including children. This is a worrying finding and health professionals need to find ways of addressing this to reduce the levels of obesity and weight-related ill health.”