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UK physical activity bodies unite in drive to make UK “most active nation in Europe”

Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance (left), Justin Tomlinson MP (centre) and Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, at the launch of the pledge in parliament (Image: ukactive)

Leading bodies in the sport, recreation and physical activity sector have called on the main political parties and their leaders to commit to making the UK the most active nation in Europe.

The National Sector Partners Group (NSPG) met with parliamentarians from across the House of Commons this week, to publish and promote a new “pledge” document. The document highlights how community sport, recreation and physical activity currently save the NHS £9.5 billion every year by preventing illness – while generating £85 billion annually in economic value.

It also shows, however, how the value generated by the sector could be far greater if the UK could reach the activity levels of its European peers.

The UK currently ranks joint 12th out of 15 comparable European nations for levels of physical activity. The UK is also ranked as the third highest spender on healthcare costs caused by inactivity and only 9th in overall wellbeing.

By committing to the pledge, the NSPG is looking for politicians of all colours to join them and to work together towards the group’s ambition of making the UK the most active nation in Europe. Should the goal be achieved, the NSPG predicts savings of up to £1 billion in healthcare spending linked to inactivity, alongside the generation of an additional £3.6 billion per annum in GDP uplift through increased productivity and realising up to £77.2 billion in increased wellbeing benefits.

The pledge calls for a new partnership with the government – both now and in the future – that unlocks the potential of sport, recreation and physical activity, and builds a future where:

  • All children and adults are given the best chance to live well for longer
  • Communities are safer, greener, healthier, and more connected
  • Prevention leads to significantly less pressure on the NHS and other key public services
  • The economy is boosted by a healthier and more productive workforce

Commenting at the launch, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “There is a collective determination across the sport, recreation, and physical activity sector to ensure that its full potential is unlocked in order to make the urgent improvements to our national health and wellbeing. As we enter the countdown to the next General Election, we want each of the main political parties to meet our ambition and commit to this pledge.

“This pledge is a first step in recognising the impact of physical activity on our health and wellbeing, and in turn on the productivity of this country. Now we need Parliamentarians from across the House to drive this agenda forward, working closely with the entire sector to create a healthier, happier, and more prosperous nation.”

The NSPG consist of the Active Partnerships, Local Government Association, CIMSPA, The Sport for Development Coalition, The Sport and Recreation Alliance, ukactive and The Youth Sport Trust.

The pledge builds on the July 2022 report, Unlocking the Potential, published by the NSPG, which highlighted a number of potential policy interventions that could provide the conditions for the sector to grow.

These include:

  • Deeper collaboration between Government departments, agencies and the sector
  • Development of a strong and consistent evidence base for importance of physical activity
  • More and better targeted investment
  • Bold and ambitious policy reform
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