Physical inactivity is one of the biggest threats our society faces. 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. We see across the world, as countries become wealthier they become less active. This damages health, wellbeing, and competitiveness. All this is well known. Inactivity is also a key driver of a host of wider health and social inequalities. In the UK, if you are richer, you are also more active. With evidence linking physical activity to happiness, educational attainment, social capital, and more, the need to enable everyone in our society to lead an active life is clear.
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 that aims to reverse the trends and re-engineer physical activity back into everyday life. As part of this we have been working closely with Nike and other Designed to Move Champions to research how we can increase levels of physical activity in the UK, particularly among young people.
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 highlighted four structural barriers which are limiting efforts to get young people moving: a focus on elite and competitive sport, to the detriment of grassroots and youth-centred policies; a fragmented organisational and delivery structure; public spending cuts; and data and accountability gaps.
Since then we have been working closely to bring about practical change and action. In 2013/14 we were proud to support the the All Party Commission on Physical Activity with gathering evidence from over 150 experts and members of the public, and synthesise the findings and recommendations into an accessible report for policy makers in all areas of society. Led by Crossbench Peer, Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlotte Leslie MP, Julian Huppert MP, and Barbara Keeley MP, the All-Party Commission on Physical Activity report offers recommendations and solutions to help get us back on track. The report was delivered in person to 10 Downing Street and work is ongoing across parliament to turn words into action.
Community sports hubs
Our latest research is focused on the role of community sports hubs in building more active communities. This case study research is 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 was the Lilian Baylis Old School site in South London where we undertook a longitudinal organisational ethnography. A UK-wide mapping exercise then identified over one hundred inspirational examples and in-depth discussions have highlighted a number of common challenges. We are currently preparing our report makes clear recommendations on how policy makers and funders, in both the sports and social enterprise worlds, can do more to support this sector and maximise its impact.