‘Radical’ change needed as research shows one in four Leeds adults is physically inactive

Council chiefs say a “radical cultural shift is needed”, as new figures show more than a quarter of adults in Leeds are considered physically inactive.

Wednesday, 1st December 2021, 4:45 pm

More than 164,000 people over the age of 16 in Leeds are not exercising, a situation worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic’s lockdowns and isolations, according to a report by Leeds City Council officers.

Studies have also shown the problem is disproportionately affecting those on lower incomes and individuals without access to a garden, adding that physical activity is not currently the priority for those struggling to meet their basic needs.

A report into the issue is set to be discussed at a meeting of the Leeds City Council Health and Wellbeing Board next week.

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More than 164,000 people over the age of 16 in Leeds are not exercising

It stated: “Physical activity levels have flattened off in recent years and have significantly reduced due to the impact of Covid-19. The most recent Active Lives survey shows the percentage of inactive adults in Leeds is 25.5 per cent, 164,100 people aged 16-plus are inactive in Leeds (May 2020 – May 2021).”

The report added that, since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, many people have lived more sedentary lives, particularly those on lower incomes.

It stated: “Inequalities have widened and lifestyle habits have changed – leading to less active and more sedentary hours.

“There are pre-existing inequalities in levels of physical activity related to the socioeconomic position and that more advantaged groups tend to have higher levels of physical activity.

“Adults in higher occupational groups increased their levels of physical activity more than adults in lower occupational grades.”

Older adults have also been disproportionately impacted in this way, as large number of over 70s found themselves having to shield from Covid. A separate report, known as the Marmot

Review, added that lockdowns and isolation were far more harmful to the physical wellbeing of people without access to gardens.

According to a study by Leeds Beckett University, many people want to be physically active, but find it hard to be, and some feel their environment makes it difficult.

It added: “Inactive people want to be active, but feel they aren’t able to be or don’t know where to start. People worry about their basic needs before they can think about being active (e.g. access to housing, employment, food, education, technology, and good health).”

The council report claimed the Get Set Leeds project, set up in 2019 with the aim of getting citizens more physically active, needs to “drive a radical cultural shift” to increase commitment to long-term exercise.

Officers say they want to create “a social norm where it is the easiest choice to be physically active every day”, and that the city should be “greener and healthier”, by encouraging walking and cycling in “active neighbourhoods”.

The document concluded: “Now more than ever embedding physical activity into everyday life provides a unique opportunity to contribute to the three city strategic pillars of Inclusive Growth, Health and Wellbeing and Climate Change.

“Realising our ambition to increase levels of physical activity has the potential to contribute to a healthier place, a greener city and a stronger local economy.”

Members of the committee will discuss the report at a meeting on Monday, December 6.

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