Physical inactivity

Last updated: 2018-12-12 11:15:14
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1. Summary

Last updated: 12/12/18

2. Introduction

One in four of the adult population is classed as physically inactive falling into the Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) “high risk” health category. Those not achieving the CMO guidelines are at a much greater risk of up to twenty chronic diseases including heart disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure.

A report by the Association of Public Health Directors showed that if everyone in England met CMO guidelines for activity nearly 37,000 deaths a year could be prevented.

Lack of physical activity is costing the UK an estimated £7.4 billion a year, including £0.9 billion to the NHS alone. On average, it is costing the economy in each local authority in England £18 million per 100,000 people every year.

Over the last 50 years, physical activity levels have declined by 20 per cent in the UK, with projections indicating a further 15 per cent drop by 2030. Experts predict that if trends continue, by 2030 the average British person will use only 25 per cent more energy than they would have done had they just spent the day in bed.

Other JSNA topics this topic closely linked to:


Diet & Nutrition



Learning Disabilities

Mental Health


Last updated: 12/12/18

3. Data and Intelligence

Public Health England: Physical activity profile

The spine chart below is taken from the PHE physical activity profile:

The chart shows that of the 13 key indicators in the physical activity profile, 6 of the indicators are statistically significantly worse in Stockton-on-Tees than the national average and 5 of the indicators are statistically similar to the national average. The final two indicators are higher/better than the nation average, however, the statistical significance has not been calculated/publicised.

2 of the indicators that are significantly worse than the national average are:

  • The percentage of physically active adults (150+ minutes per week); and
  • The percentage of physically inactive adults (<30 minutes per week).

The percentage of physically active adults in Stockton-on-Tees (58.9%) is lower than the North East (62.8%) and England (64.9%) average.

The percentage of physically inactive adults in Stockton-on-Tees (27.2%) is higher than the North East (24.6%) and England (22.3%) average.

Active People Survey

The chart above shows that in 2015/16, 39% of Stockton-on-Tees residents were taking part in a sporting activity within the previous 28 days, this is lower than the England average (46.6%)

The chart above shows that in 2015/16, 34.3% of Stockton-on-Tees residents who are currently “inactive”, would like to do more sport, this is higher than the England average (27.9%).

The graphic above shows that the most popular form of physical activity in England is “Walking for leisure” (41%), closely followed by:

  •  “Sporting activity“(35%);
  • “Fitness activities”(31%); and
  • “Walking for travel” (32%).

Gym memberships

The “2017 State of the UK Fitness Industry Report” reveals that 1 in every 7 people in the UK is a member of a gym (14.9%).

Tees Active

Tees Active are a charitable leisure management organisation who manage many of the leisure facilities provided by Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.

The following statistics were analysed using data from the Tees Active system as at October 2017:

The chart above shows that combining all membership types, 8.7% of the population of Stockton-on-Tees has a membership card with Tees Active.

The chart above shows that when comparing Tees Active membership by gender, there is little difference between the rates of males and females when aged 0-19 years and 80+ years, however, for 20-79 year olds, there are a higher proportion of females with a membership than males.

The chart above shows that there is a higher proportion of people with Tees Active memberships from the more deprived areas of Stockton-on-Tees than the more affluent areas.

The chart above shows that the Bilingham wards make up almost half of all Tees Active memberships in Stockton-on-Tees.

Yarm, Eaglescliffe and the Ingleby Barwick wards have the lowest rates of membership in the borough.

Last updated: 12/12/18

4. Which population groups are at risk and why?


There is a clear pattern in activity levels by age. Those aged 16-24 are most likely to be active and those aged 75+ are least likely to be active.



Males are more likely to be “active” and “fairly active” than females.

13% of men and 15% of women are inactive.

Based on those activities that are the continued focus of Sport England (sport, fitness and cycling for leisure), males (57%) are more likely to be active than females (49%). However, females are more likely to walk for leisure and travel than males.

21% of boys and 16% of girls aged 5-15 achieve recommended levels of physical activity.

Socioeconomic status

There are differences in activity levels between socioeconomic groups. People who are in managerial, administrative and professional occupations (NS SEC 1-2) are most likely to be active (70%) whilst those who are long term unemployed or have never worked (NS SEC 8) are the least likely to be active (49%).

47% of boys and 49% of girls in the lowest economic group are ‘inactive’ compared to 26% and 35% in the highest economic group.


Persons with no qualifications are three times as likely to take little or no exercise as those with a degree.


Asian, Black and Chinese populations are less likely to meet the recommended levels of physical activity than Mixed and White populations.


On average, 43% of prisoners participate in some form of organised physical education activities.

In general, newer prisons have better facilities than older prisons.

Sexual orientation

A study by the National LGB&T partnership published in February 2016 identified that:

55% of LGBT men were not active enough to maintain good health.

56% of LGBT women were not active enough to maintain good health.

64% of LGBT people who identified as something other than male or female (e.g. genderfluid or genderqueer) were not active enough to maintain good health.

Looked after children

Due to changes in placement, looked after children experience disrupted patterns of engagement coupled with additional institutional constraints that shape access to sporting activities.

Disabled adults

18% of disabled adults regularly take part in sport compared to 39% of non-disabled adults.

In terms of activity; only 36% of those with three or more impairments are active compared with 65% of those without a disability.

Car ownership

Increasing car use is a major contributing factor to lower levels of physical activity in the UK. In 1961, 69% of households did not own a car or van, but by 2012 this had decreased to 25%.


Last updated: 12/12/18

5. Consultation and engagement

Enablers & Barriers NEMS Research

Of the 701 households interviewed within the Borough, 54% of all adults claim to always or very often do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week.  This contrasts with 13% reporting to never do such activity.  Those from the most deprived areas are twice as likely to fall into the category of never attaining this level of activity.

Activities: the physical activity offer

Respondents were asked about time spent watching TV, as an indication of inactivity.  On weekdays respondents typically spend 2½ hours watching TV or using the internet which was largely consistent across all subgroups.  At weekends the time increased to 4.8 hours but among those in the most deprived areas this increased to 6.6 hours compared to 4.3 hours in the least deprived areas.

Further exploration would be required to understand if this is leisure time (i.e. relaxation) and/or whether active alternatives could be promoted for individuals and/or families.

One in five Borough residents attend fitness or leisure classes but this drops to around one in 14 in the most deprived areas compared to one in three in the least deprived areas.  Among those not currently attending fitness or leisure classes, 22% would like to do so, consistent irrespective of deprivation with the biggest barrier to attending being lack of time.

Spontaneously two main barriers were given for not being able to achieve the recommended amount of physical activity, namely, lack of time / too busy (24%) and existing health problems (22%). When prompted, poor access to fitness facilities and an insufficient support network featured most frequently. Affordability was not really an issue even in the most deprived areas.


13% of adults believe they don’t need to do any physical exercise (highest in the most deprived areas) whereas 55% were of the opposite opinion (highest in the least deprived areas).  Allied to this was the desire to do more physical exercise which increased as deprivation decreased. Similarly, interest in improving health and lifestyle exhibited the same profile.

Lifestyle behaviours

45% of Borough residents expressed an interest in improving their health and lifestyle whereas 47% have no interest. Interest was highest in the least deprived areas (66%) whereas interest in the most deprived areas was only 42%.


Preston Park and Ropner Park were the two facilities most popular with residents where nearly half of respondents have visited them. Whereas some facilities barely registered, e.g. 98% of respondents had either never heard of or never visited Harewood Pleasure Gardens or Tees Heritage Park. Less than one in twenty respondents rated the availability, quality and accessibility of parks and open spaces within the Borough as poor. However, 26% of all respondents never visit such places.

56% of residents stated that nothing would encourage them to visit / visit more often the parks and open spaces.

SHUE Survey 2016

Of the 2,500 secondary school children (Yr 8 and Yr 10) surveyed across Stockton on Tees, 42% responded that they would like to be sporty.  49% responded that if they wanted advice about physical activity they would ask a member of their family. In terms of perseverance and self-motivation 66% of pupils responded that if at first they don’t succeed, they ‘usually’ or ‘whenever possible’ keep on trying until they do, while 52% ask for help and 14% give up.

Sport England

Lone parents

In 2005, qualitative interviews were conducted (by Sport England) amongst lone parents residing in the South East to try to better understand the determinants of sports participation. A significant part of the population fall into the category 'lone parents', and this has its own particular challenges in relation to participation.

The research found that:

  • The demands of being a lone parent centred on the struggle of managing work, household tasks and childcare, all with little assistance. Physical activity was therefore difficult to fit in.
  • The demands of being a lone parent meant that including physical activity into their routine was considerably difficult and this made it increasingly harder when other barriers came into play such as lack of transport and facilities.
  • The key external barriers were the cost of participating, the cost and provision of suitable childcare and the availability of good quality facilities accessible by public transport if they did not have their own means of transport.
  • The main internal barriers were the low levels of confidence that some lone parents had. This included feeling out of place in a sporting environment and a number of respondents who felt they were “not the sporty type”, were too overweight or unfit to participate. A large barrier was a general lack of motivation and low level of enjoyment and interest in sport or physical activity.

Sports participation and ethnicity in England 1999/2000

This survey, carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) on behalf of Sport England, provides for the first time national statistics on the levels of participation in sport, previous sporting experiences and sporting aspirations of people from ethnic minority communities in England.

What prevents ethnic minorities participating in the sports they would like to do?

•  ‘Home and family responsibilities’, ‘work/study demands’, ‘lack of local facilities’, ‘lack of money’ and ‘I am lazy/I am too embarrassed’ are the reasons most frequently given amongst all ethnic groups for not taking part. Home and family responsibilities rank particularly high amongst the Indian and Bangladeshi communities with 43% and 40% respectively of these groups giving this reason for not taking part. The Bangladeshi and ‘Black Other’ populations are most likely to refer to problems with lack of/ unsuitable local facilities with 48% and 45% of these groups respectively giving this reason. Lack of money is given by 25% of the ‘Black Other’ group and 24% of Black Caribbeans.

•  For men (where sample sizes allow analysis) ‘work/study demands’ rate as the most frequently cited reason for not taking part with 49% of Indian men, 45% of Pakistani men and 38% of Black Caribbean men giving this as a reason.

• Women are more likely than men to give ‘home and family responsibilities’ for not taking part. Almost half of all Indian women (49%) along with 45% of ‘Black Other’ women, 44% of Pakistani women, 43% of women in the ‘Other’ ethnic category, 41% of Black Caribbean women and 40% of Black African women give this as a reason.

Negative experiences in sport due to ethnicity

• Generally men are more likely than women to say that they have had a negative experience in sport that is due to their ethnicity but this may partly reflect the fact, as seen earlier, that more men take part in sport than women.

• ‘Black Other’ men are the group most likely to say that they have had a negative experience with one in five saying that this is the case. Amongst women the ‘Black Other’ ethnic group also had the largest percentage saying that they had had a negative experience (approximately one in seven).

• Chinese men and women are the least likely of all the ethnic groups to feel that they have had a negative experience in sport that they considered was due to their ethnicity.


Last updated: 12/12/18

6. Strategic issues

Last updated: 12/12/18

7. Evidence base

Issue number

1 = highest priority




Public Health England (PHE)

Title incl. web link

Health matters: getting every adult active every day


Indicates the role for Local Authorities, NHS commissioners, Healthcare professionals and the sport & leisure sector for helping to “move at scale” and increase physical activity.


National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)

Title incl. web link

Obesity Prevention CG43 (2015)


This guideline outlines how the NHS, local authorities, early years’ settings, schools and workplaces can increase physical activity levels among their target populations.


Government Office for Science (GOV)

Title incl. web link

Foresight Report: Tackling Obesity, Future Choices.


The complex relations between the social, economic and physical environments and individual factors that underlie the development of obesity.



Public Health England (PHE)

Title incl. web link

Health matters: community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing


This professional resource focuses on the concept and practice of community-centred approaches for health and wellbeing and outlines how to create the conditions for community assets to thrive.


Last updated: 12/12/18

8. What is being done and why?

Tees Active

Tees Active (TAL) is a major strategic partner of SBC responsible for delivering sports, physical activity, leisure and health related services for the council, largely through the stock of leisure facilities throughout the borough.

As a charitable, non-profit distributing company, for community benefit, TAL gears its services and facilities to reaching out to the whole community with the core aim of getting more people active within the borough.

The company uses targeted marketing, social media, community networks, differential pricing with social targeting, attractive environments and ‘current’ programme offers to expand visits to the borough leisure facilities.

The approach has proved successful with visitor numbers up by over 33% since 2004 while reducing the public subsidy per visit to 60p, down from £1.66 in 2004. All categories of use amongst the population have increased during this period.

Within this broad approach to increasing activity, there are also numerous targeted schemes aimed at particular groups. These include:

  • GP referral scheme (exercise on prescription) dealing with rehabilitation and lifestyle changes
  • Adult and Family weight management schemes
  • Club 55 – aimed at older people, linked with Age Uk and Alzheimers UK
  • Make your Move – aimed at women and girls
  • Active Minds – aimed at people with mental health problems and working with MIND
  • Hosting Community Integrated Care into Billingham forum – adults with learning difficulties
  • Disability swimming sessions
  • Ladies/Asian Ladies swimming
  • Free access for all Looked After Children
  • Post code targeting with funding through Thirteen Housing Group and Tees Valley Sport with a range of activities
  • Drop in introduction, induction and group exercise classes in the community, in deprived areas. Specifically, Roseworth Community Centre on the outdoor rig/gym.


Leisure and Sports Development

The Leisure and Sports Development (L&SD) Service at Stockton Council is a key partner in shaping the sport and physical activity landscape across the borough and is responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of key strategic plans such as the Built Facilities Strategy and the Playing Pitch Strategy. Along with supporting the development of greater take up of sport and physical activity, the L&SD team also provides:

Funky Feet – A physical activity programme for 0-4’s where children and adults participate together. This programme impacts upon a significant number of young people in Stockton and is now being rolled out across the Tees Valley.

Happy Active – A programme for school age young people that focuses on developing the fun, learning and achievement and to reduce drop-off from sport.

Sisters-R-Doing-It – A running programme for women by women which has seen considerable success both in Stockton and across the Tees Valley.

Club, Coach and Volunteer Development – As clubs and coaches are a vital cog in the sporting wheel L&SD take a lead in supporting local clubs, coaches and volunteers

Sporting-Steps – National award winning sports scheme supporting adults with learning disabilities and mental health conditions to improve their physical and psycho-social health along with creating employment opportunities.

Events – L&SD are involved in supporting the design and delivery of a number of sporting events including the Trail Race Series, the Duathlon Festival, the Cycling Festival, the Rat Race and the City Games.

The initiatives identified above are designed to support priority groups which have been identified by Sport England as under-represented in sport and/ or locally identified target groups. Other initiatives targeting other locally identified priority groups are also being developed.

Strategic Partnerships – SBC are a partner in Tees Valley Sport, the County Sports Partnership which along with being a sub-regional delivery vehicle for Sport England provides greater connectivity between the work of the five local authorities of the Tees Valley.

Green Infrastructure

The Borough has a diverse range of outdoor spaces and assets which provide opportunities for active recreation and help to encourage active lifestyles.  This includes 1500 hectares of publicly accessible open space incorporating:

  • Two ‘strategic urban parks (Preston Park and Ropner Park)
  • 11 other urban parks
  • Three country parks (Wynyard Woodland Park, Billingham Beck Valley Country Park and Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park)
  • 48 play areas and 28 sites with informal sport facilities such as skate parks and multi-use games areas
  • Numerous others sites such as recreation grounds, nature reserves, amenity green space, green corridors and cemeteries.

The River Tees is one of the Borough’s major recreational assets, with the impounded river upstream of the barrage providing ideal conditions for the wide range of water sports.

The Borough’s green infrastructure assets also include an extensive public rights of way and cycleway network, further details of which are provided below.

The Borough’s green infrastructure network has been extended and improved in recent years through a wide range of projects and as a result of the planning and development process.

The Green Infrastructure Strategy (2011) continues to provide a future vision for how green infrastructure will contribute towards the sustainable development of the Borough, including the contribution it makes to health and well-being.  Specific projects are identified in the accompanying Green Infrastructure Delivery Plan (2018-21), setting out how the council will work in partnership with other organisations (e.g. Environment Agency, Groundwork, Tees Valley Wildlife Trust, Natural England and others) to further develop the Borough’s green infrastructure network.  The plan remains a ‘live’ document which can incorporate any additional projects needed to support physical activity and complement other interventions.

Active Travel

The Council are also responsible for the provision of on and off-carriageway cycle routes, public rights of way and road safety initiatives via the Highways Transport & Design service.  This includes the development and delivery of local transport policy, currently via the 4th Local Transport Plan, soon to be replaced by a Local Transport Implementation Plan. 

The borough has a significant network of Rights of Way (196km) and cycle routes (115km).  Work to expand and improve the network is ongoing and will be addressed through both the Local Transport Implementation Plan and the TVCA Local Cycling and Walking Implementation Plan, due for publication in 2018.  The cycleways and rights of way map can be found at

To promote the network the Council have a partnership with Sustrans, the sustainable transport charity, providing a Cycle and Walking ‘Hub’ in Stockton town centre.  This provides free cycle parking, advice, one-to-one cycle training and a large number of guided walks and rides.  Full details are available here

The Council also provide pedestrian and cycle training to KS1 and 2 pupils, funded via grants from central government.  These measures increase road safety and encourage travelling actively at a young age.

Last updated: 12/12/18

9. What needs are unmet?

Last updated: 12/12/18

10. What needs to be done and why?

Last updated: 12/12/18

11. What additional needs assessment is required?

Further consultations around understanding why some residents are not currently taking up the current activity offer.

Further consultations around understanding why some residents are not currently maximising the use the some of the boroughs public open spaces.

Last updated: 12/12/18

12. References


Last updated: 12/12/18

13. Key contact

Name: Neil Russell

Job title: Leisure and Sports Development Manager

Organisation: Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Phone number: 01642 526412

Contributor/s: James O’Donnell, Mandy Mackinnon, Jonathan Kibble, Graham Clingan, Steve Chaytor, Leon Jones

Last updated: 12/12/18