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28 Oct 2019

British Medical Association: government must tackle 'stark inequalities' in physical activity levels
BY Tom Walker

A BMA report showed that people living with disabilities came below the national average in physical activity levels

A BMA report showed that people living with disabilities came below the national average in physical activity levels

Doctors have called on the Conservative government to take "urgent action" to improve low levels of physical activity across the UK.

The British Medical Association (BMA) said the government should implement changes to improve the uptake of physical activity, with a focus on tackling inequalities, across four key areas: travel, leisure, school and work.

For travel, the BMA recommends increasing the cross-departmental government budget for active travel to £20 per head, to cover the promotion of activities such as walking and cycling.

On leisure, the BMA wants to see central government provide local government with the resource to reverse budget cuts to open spaces and recreation facilities, with targeted additional investment in the most deprived local areas.

It also calls on physical education to be recognised and protected as an essential part of the school curriculum, while the NHS should act as an ‘anchor institution’ to encourage and facilitate active travel and set an example for other employers.

The BMA made the statements as part of a report on physical activity – called Get a Move on – steps to increase physical activity which it published on 23 October.

The report highlights the ‘stark inequalities’ between people living in deprived areas and the rest of the country.

More than a third (34 per cent) of adults in the most deprived areas of England were classified as inactive, compared to the national average of 23 per cent.

It also highlights that BAME groups, LGBT people and people living with disabilities came below the national average in physical activity levels and that women were less likely to exercise than men due to a variety of social, cultural and environmental factors.

Professor Dame Parveen Kumar chair of BMA's board of science, said: "As doctors, we see first-hand the negative impact of low levels of physical activity on the population’s health including the rise in hospital admissions as a result of those living with preventable long-term conditions.

“It is unacceptable that the Government is not doing more to encourage greater levels of physical activity, particularly for those living in deprived areas and those groups of people where inequalities exist.

“Exercise has an enormous amount of health benefits, from the prevention and management of chronic diseases to improved mental health and increased social interaction, and should therefore be affordable and accessible to all.

“Clearly, the overall benefits of increased physical activities far outweigh the effort and resources required for the Government to make these important changes. Investing now in getting people more active will be cost-effective in the long run and drastically improve the nation’s health.”

• To download the Get a Move on – steps to increase physical activity, click here



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