Is the Nation Becoming More Active?

In December 2015 the British Government released a document titled “Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation”. The chief aim of this new strategy was to get more people involved in sport and physical activity through targeted funding.

However, it was never just about the numbers as future funding decisions were to be made on the basis of what participants would get out of engaging in physical activity by focussing on five key outcomes: physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing, individual development, social and community development, and economic development.

“Through it we will measure how active people are overall – rather than how often they take part in any particular sport. A new set of key performance indicators will be used to test progress towards the five key outcomes and we will transform our understanding of how sport delivers them.”
Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation, p.10.

Also, there would be a focus on particular demographic groups who generally do not take part in regular physical activity or sport such as women and girls, disabled people, those in lower socio-economic groups and older people.

To measure the success of this new strategy a new system of measurement was set up with the Active Lives Survey replacing the Active People’s Survey. The Active Lives survey was an Ipsos MORI survey commissioned by Sport England.

So the question here is, “has this strategy worked?”

This month Sport England published their Active Lives Adult Survey November 17/18 report which confirms that record numbers are now taking part in some form of physical activity.

In fact, based on the data gathered from the survey [of people aged 16+] a total of 498,100 more people are taking part in moderate intensity physical exercise every week compared to a year ago. This is a huge leap!

The Chief Medical Officer states that an active person is someone who achieves a total of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week, whereas an inactive person manages less than 30 minutes per week. A fairly active person lies between the two.

According to the Active Lives Survey Technical Note, “moderate activity is defined as activity where you raise your heart rate and feel a little out of breath”. Looking into the detail of the data we see that 286,000 more women are getting more active - probably in part as a result of the drive to attract more women to take part in sport and physical activity, such as the This Girl Can campaign. Also, disabled people and those with chronic health issues show increased activity with 133,200 more people being classed as active than last year with going to a gym accounting for the largest growth.

Is the strategy working? In terms of overall numbers and these special populations, yes!

However, there are still certain groups that are least likely to be active such as South Asian and black adults as well as people from lower-socio economic groups. Within these groups it is particularly the women who are inactive.

Another major encouragement from the Active Lives Survey was that the majority of active people surveyed suggested that the enjoyment of physical exercise was a key motivator. Exercise really is fun! On the flip side, inactive people stressed that their perceived ability was preventing them from doing more.

Overall, the increase in people getting active and the continued drive Towards An Active Nation by Sport England will inevitably lead to an increased demand from individuals looking for ways to engage in sport and physical activity. More people requires more professionals and the increased numbers of participants will also drive the requirement for a diverse range of activities.

Whereas walking for leisure and travel and gym sessions were the most popular in terms of numbers, adventure sports (hill and mountain walking, climbing and orienteering) showed significant growth, with fitness classes such as Zumba falling. There is an element of fashion to what’s “in” and the human pre-disposition to variety will drive the requirement for variety.

So the demands on the number and variety of instructors will increase, as will the requirement to cater for special populations as we discussed last week in our post on the importance of clinical training for chartered activity specialists.

Add in the desire of CIMSPA for a future where “a GP can identify their local chartered activity practitioner and prescribe exercise” and we really are seeing the birth of an active nation, not just in terms of numbers but in target demographics too.

At tahdah, we’re excited to be part of this growth, to help awarding bodies manage their training partners and membership, to help professionals build and grow their careers and, above all, to safeguard those active individuals who can, who are, building this active nation.