According to official figures, many of us are failing to meet the recommended level of two and a half hours of moderate activity a week, which experts believe is creating a major public health challenge.
They say just minor improvements in overall activity levels would result in significant benefits.
Sport medicine consultant Dr Mike Loosemore claims the NHS is “ignoring” guidelines to promote physical activity, as set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
"We have huge anti-smoking programmes. We have massive amounts of money being spent on obesity, and GPs are paid to check peoples diabetes and cholesterol status. We know that inactivity is a bigger health problem than all those things.
"If we could get the population more active we could reduce the risk of bowel cancer by 60%. We could reduce the risk of diabetes by 50%. We could reduce the risk of breast cancer by 50%, reduce mild to moderate depression by the same as taking Prozac. we could improve bone health, reduce falls in the elderly, reduce Alzheimer's by 30%."
Beat the Street
Many efforts to promote physical activity fail to reach the wider population, but one initiative called “Beat the Street” is showing promising results.
The scheme is a community-based competition, set up mainly in primary schools but also encourages participation from GP practices and local clubs and businesses.
Participants are issued with fobs which register on sensors known as “beat-boxes” – sited at different locations around the neighbourhood. The more “swipes” a participant tallies up, the more points they win. The points are then converted into prizes for nominated charities.
A mother at a participating school told the BBC, "I'm quite a busy person so the weekends are mostly indoors, and i think this has given me a different way of looking at life. I might be coming out more, so I'm more of an active woman now, walking around rather than just sitting in front of the TV!"
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