skip to Main Content

Active Lives report: no change in adult activity levels, with “further action needed” to tackle inequalities

Less than two thirds of the adult population meet the CMO’s guidelines of 150 minutes exercise per week (Image: Sport England)

There was no real increase in the number of physically active adults during 2023, with a quarter of the adult population still deemed physically inactive.

Figures from Sport England’s latest Active Lives Adult Survey report show that, between November 2022 and November 2023, 63.4% of the adult population met the Chief Medical Officers’ guidelines of doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.

The figure is practically unchanged from the 63.1% the year before (2022).

Worryingly, the number of people classed as inactive – averaging fewer than 30 minutes a week – is showing no signs of decreasing, with 25.7% of the population (11.9m) falling into the category (compared to 25.8% in 2022).

The report also reveals that many longstanding inequalities remain, with women, those from lower socio-economic groups and Black and Asian people still less likely to be active than others.

This despite Sport England – the agency tasked with getting people more active – saying it has put “tackling inequalities at the heart” of its Uniting the Movement strategy, which it launched more than three years ago, in January 2021.

According to the Active Lives report, the activities to have seen significant growth included active travel and fitness activities. Data shows that more than a million more adults (an increase of 2.1%) walked or cycled for travel during 2023, while 802,000 (increase of 1.5%) more took part in fitness activities, when compared to the year before.

The report also shows that where people live impacts on how likely they are to be active. Those living in more deprived places are less likely to be active than those in places that are less deprived, from a high of 79% active in Brighton and Hove to a low of just 49% active in Barking and Dagenham.

The figures suggest that the long-term, marginal increases in the number of physically active people has further stagnated since 2022.

Active Lives was first published in 2016. In the seven years since then, there has been a 1.3% increase in people classed as physically active.

“The report shows us how much there is still to do if we’re to achieve our ambition that everyone in England can enjoy the benefits of taking part in physical activity,” said Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England CEO.

“At the moment, how likely you are to be active depends too much on your bank balance and your postcode.

“That’s why we will continue to target our investment in places where it can make the biggest difference and on the groups who have most to gain.

“Yet we know we can’t fix this alone. A collective approach across government is essential.

“The government’s Get Active strategy has ambitious targets for participation levels and they will only be met if – through the National Physical Activity Taskforce and other mechanisms – we see a better join-up in policy and delivery.

“We look forward to playing our part and building on the progress already made.”

To read the full report, click here.

Back To Top