Levels of physical activity are falling at alarming rates in countries across the world. In the UK we have seen physical activity fall by over 20% in less than two generations. This is set to fall by a further 35% by 2030. This epidemic of inactivity is damaging our health, our economies, our communities and our individual wellbeing. Worldwide, inactivity kills more people than smoking. Today’s ten year olds will be the first generation expected to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents. Our inactivity also drains economies. The most recent estimates show that inactivity costs the UK economy over £20bn and the NHS almost £2bn a year.
There is a growing global consensus that we have to act now in order to turn this situation around. The Young Foundation is founding champion of Designed to Move, a new global initiative being led by Nike that aims to reverse the trends and re-engineer physical activity back into everyday life. We have been working with Nike for two years researching how we can increase physical activity among young people in the UK. In 2012 Mo Farah and Boris Johnson launched our Move It report which outlined why levels of participation are low and provided a four-point action plan to get more people active.
We are now starting an exciting new phase of research. Although the declining levels of activity make depressing reading, there are initiatives around the world that are reversing these trends. There is an urgent need to learn from these ‘bright spots’ so that such approaches can be replicated and scaled to reach a much larger, global, public.
The Young Foundation is undertaking case study research looking at examples where physical activity has been successfully embedded within communities and is contributing to positive outcomes and improved living for all. Our first case study is looking in detail at Lilian Baylis Old School site in South London which has been identified as a leading example of a Community Sports Hub. This study will form part of a larger piece of work, comparing other approaches being adopted elsewhere in the world.