When we move, we’re stronger. That’s true for each of us, and it’s true for our nation.
There’s overwhelming evidence for the life-changing benefits of being active – from childhood through to old age. Every year, these benefits deliver billions of pounds of value to our healthcare systems, society and economy.
If movement were a medicine, we’d call it a miracle cure – and yet we’re using only a small part of its potential.
Movement can have profound benefits for our physical health, but it has the power to do so much more. It’s good for our mental wellbeing, connects and strengthens communities, and has huge value to the nation’s economy: we know that...
Movement has astonishing benefits for our physical health
When we’re young, being active helps our bodies develop properly, with a strong heart, healthy bones, muscles and brain development.
As we get older, regular exercise reduces our risk of illness - from heart disease, stroke, colon and breast cancer to obesity and osteoporosis, among other conditions. Every year, leading an active lifestyle prevents 900,000 cases of diabetes and 93,000 cases of dementia (the leading cause of death in the UK) – a combined saving of £7.1 billion to the UK economy.
Movement makes us happier
The evidence shows that people who get active have greater levels of happiness, life satisfaction and feeling worthwhile. They’re also less likely to feel anxious. For many of us, this is thanks to the social interaction involved in sport and activity – as we meet and make new friends and share uplifting moments together, whether playing a game in a park, or being part of a team in a local league – while for others it’s about discovering a greater sense of self-worth and resilience, or a combination of these and other positive factors.
When researchers at Sheffield Hallam University valued the role of sport and physical activity to the nation’s wellbeing, they calculated it as £42bn per year – more than three times the total NHS spending on mental health in England in 2018.
Active lifestyles are credited with 30 million fewer GP visits every year.
There’s a proven link between taking part in physical activity and improved job opportunities, and this applies to people from all backgrounds.
Sport and activity enable people to have fun, make friends, be healthy and build stronger community connections.
Activity also has an especially pivotal role to play in levelling up communities, by bridging the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. Today, this value – otherwise known as the combined ‘social community development’ impact – of sport and physical activity is estimated at £20bn to the UK. But that’s nowhere near its full potential.
Physical activity is also hugely valuable to the national economy
A healthy population is a productive one. Today, the mental and physical health of our workforce has never been more important as we look to build, and rebuild, vital industries and support our national economy through incredibly challenging times.
The economic contribution of the UK sports sector alone has been compared to agriculture, forestry and fishing combined. Today, there are more than 285,000 jobs in England within community sport and physical activity, across the private, public and third sector – and the direct contribution to the economy in England is valued at £13.8bn every year. As the sports industry is very employment heavy, it’s seen as an especially effective way to create new jobs and counteract recession.
Right now, movement matters more than ever
Being active already makes a vast contribution to our health, communities and economy. The total social and economic value of being involved in community sport and physical activity in England in 2017/18 was calculated as £85.5bn.
But this could be so much higher.
At a time when we face a perfect storm of health, social and economic problems, it’s essential that any response to these challenges delivers the greatest possible impact.
We know too, that by working together and forging cross-sector partnerships, sport and activity can make a real contribution in promoting environmental sustainability, helping to confront challenges like climate change.
It’s right in front of us. And if we want to take advantage of it, we just have to move.