More than 20 million Brits are physically inactive, new data reveals

More than 20 million UK adults are currently failing to meet government guidelines for physical activity, according to a new report.

The Physical Inactivity and Sedentary Behaviour report from the British Heart Foundation, (BHF) reveals that those who are not getting enough exercise are costing the National Health Service (NHS) as much as £1.2 billion a year.

The report, which labelled the high inactivity levels “one of the most significant national health crises threating people’s cardiovascular health today,” found that women are 36% more likely to be physically inactive than men.

According to NHS guidelines, adults aged 19-64 should do “at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking,” or “75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running,” or “a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity,” every week.

In either instance, the NHS also recommends doing strength exercises “on two or more days as week.” Mapping levels of physical activity across the country the report showed the North West to be the worst region for physical activity.

According to the report, 2.7 millions adults living in the North West are not getting enough exercise. The report also highlighted mounting evidence that an overall sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to a person’s health, even if they incorporate elements of physical activity.

The BHF said the average man in the UK spends a fifth of their life sitting, equating to 78 days a year, while women spend typically spend 74 days a year sitting. 

Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director of the BHF, said: “Physical inactivity is one of the most significant global health crises of the moment.

“Levels of physical inactivity and sedentary behaviour in the UK remain stubbornly high, and these two risk factors present a substantial threat to our cardiovascular health. 

"Making physical activity easier and more accessible for all is of paramount importance if we are to reduce the burden of inactivity-related ill health.”

The BHF also drew attention to previous research showing that being physically active can reduce the risk of heart and other circulatory diseases by up to 35% and the risk of early death by as much as 30%.

Physical inactivity is responsible for around five million deaths around the world every year and is the cause of one in 10 premature deaths in the UK, and one in six deaths in total.