Summer 2012 was the UK’s summer of sport. Millions watched the European football championships, followed by Wimbledon, the test match cricket with the West Indies and South Africa and, of course, the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Our enthusiasm for watching sport seems to know no bounds. The problem is that we sit at home watching it, rather than participating ourselves.
Levels of physical activity in the UK are in decline and sedentary lifestyles are increasingly becoming the norm. We face an epidemic of inactivity that is costing a fortune and threatens the health and wellbeing of millions.
Inactivity constitutes a major public health threat, increasing the risks of chronic disease and disability. This not only causes serious and unnecessary suffering and impairs quality of life, but also comes at a significant economic cost. The direct costs to the NHS and indirect costs to society as a result of inactivity total more than £8 billion each year. In a time of budget cuts, investing in physical activity is smart public policy.
This report looks at participation in sport and physical activity in England, focusing particularly on young people. We look at the reasons why levels of participation are low and provide a four-point action plan to get more people active.
The new emphasis on young people is encouraging, but we believe that the strategy fails to address some of the core structural and policy problems. The philosophy of sports policy remains embedded in supporting elite and competitive sports. It does nothing to change the overly complex way sport is organised and will continue to fund the organisations that have failed to increase levels of participation in the past. In order to achieve lasting change we propose some more radical solutions.