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Connecting with health and wellbeing

This page is all about one of the five big issues - keep reading, or go to our main strategy page.

Uniting the Movement

Our physical and mental health is our biggest asset. Being physically active can be described as a ‘wonder drug’ - it unlocks so much that’s good for our health and wellbeing. 

But despite this and amid a backdrop of health inequalities, not everyone’s currently able to enjoy the benefits of an active life.

The scale of the challenge is significant. Evidence suggests an increase in depression and anxiety amongst 5-15-year-olds; that one in three working age adults now live with a long-term health condition, predicted to rise to 40% by 2030; and despite life expectancy increasing over the last 20 years, people are spending more time in poorer health. The complexity and severity of health needs is also increasing for some groups. 

This impacts everything from the quality of our lives to the health of our economy.


The number of working age adults predicted by 2030 to be living with a long-term health condition which needs managing – it’s currently 33%

There are also stark health inequalities among both children and adults. For example, people living in the most deprived parts of the country typically have two or more health conditions a decade earlier in their life than those in the least deprived.

There’s a growing trend for wellbeing and looking after our own health, and a rising interest in people quantifying their health through things like apps.

Changing demographics also present opportunities: ‘Baby Boomers’, for example, are approaching older age and we anticipate they may want to stay active for longer than previous generations.

We know too that there are many organisations working to improve health and wellbeing, from the NHS to those in the voluntary and community sector, local authorities, employers and the commercial health and wellbeing sector.

By using the power of sport and physical activity alongside the work of all these organisations, there’s huge potential to improve existing work and explore new areas to help strengthen people’s health and wellbeing, from childhood right through to older age.

Our ambition

We want sport and physical activity to be at the heart of how we all think about the nation’s - and our own - health and wellbeing. But we can only do this if we effectively respond to changing demographics, trends in health and the things that can make it even harder to be active for people with poorer health – for example, limited inclusive or accessible opportunities to get active. 

It shouldn’t matter that you’re 35 or 65, live with two health conditions or are in perfect health – the right range of opportunities, experiences and support should be available and for everyone. 

We must also recognise when people with more challenging health needs may need extra support or new and different ways to take part. 

If we do this right, we can stop health problems arising in the first place and help people to age well. We could also then support people to manage problems when they do arise and be active for as long as possible.

We also want to harness the collective power of all the organisations focused on health outcomes. If health is everyone’s business, then so is sport and physical activity. 

The opportunity and ambition here is big and success could be things like physical activity in care homes becoming a priority, physical activity being embedded in mental health policy and services for children, physical activity advice being included in the every day conversations of front-line NHS staff, or products that help people monitor their own health becoming more widely available.

We also want to strengthen the connection and collaboration between sport and physical activity and the health system at every level, so more people are recommended or referred into activity. This journey should be easy, personalised and supported, to increase that individual’s likelihood of becoming and staying active.

These changes could impact greatly on participation and health and play a role in prevention, tackling inequalities and mitigating the impact of Covid-19.

What we'll focus on

Stark inequalities

People living in the most deprived parts of the country typically have two or more health conditions a decade earlier in their life than those in the least deprived.

This is just one example of the stark health inequalities among both children and adults.

  • Working collaboratively to continuously improve sport and physical activity messaging, experiences and opportunities, so they’re inclusive, irrespective of whether you live with a health condition or what age you are. We’ll experiment with different approaches to tackle inequalities in health or participation in communities and share learnings. The sport and physical activity workforce will also be supported to gain confidence and skills to give people a personalised experience, supporting beginners and people with common conditions
  • Working with partners who want to improve people’s health to use sport and physical activity. We’ll focus on those who have trust, credibility and reach among people who are least active, in poorer health or unlikely to have existing relationships with the sport and physical activity sector. We’ll play an advocacy, capacity, capability-building and influencing role, so we can build buy-in over a longer period of time
  • Sharing the evidence that physical activity can have a profound benefit on people’s health in a relevant and compelling way that can win both the hearts and minds of those who could strengthen policies, messaging, delivery or investment in support of sport and physical activity
  • Supporting meaningful links between the sport and physical activity sector and health systems at every level. We’ll listen to what’s getting in the way of making this happen and drive changes that address these barriers, including using our influence and advocacy to enable policy changes. We’ll also support local solutions, including developing leaders who can spot and respond to local need and help bridge the gap between sport and physical activity and local health systems in a place.
Putting health first

Active Dorset

These days you can do almost anything with your phone.

You can order a pizza, check your social media and, thanks to the great work of Active Dorset, you can use it to call a public health-funded telephone service that will help you get and stay active.

The support line is just one of the ways they’ve used investment from our Active Ageing Fund to create a culture where helping people to take part in physical activity has become integrated across the health system and wider public sector.

Encouraging and supporting people to move more, and explaining the benefits of doing so, is integral to our ambition and work like this at a local level builds on and informs what we’re doing nationally.

Active Dorset’s ‘whole-system’ approach means advice and support is available across a range of places and services used by people - such as GP surgeries and healthcare pathways - helping support them and reduce demand on the health and social care system. This builds on the We Are Undefeatable campaign, ensuring messages to the public are amplified from a range of trusted organisations.

This also includes training healthcare professionals – through the Moving Healthcare Professionals Programme – so they feel comfortable and motivated to routinely talk to patients about being active in a way that works for them.

It means, as well as prescribing treatments, GPs and nurses can advocate physical activity, which can play a vital role in helping to prevent and manage many long-term conditions.

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