£7 billion of potential savings if exercise given increased priority


Over £7 billion of savings could be achieved if each person in the UK took the government’s recommended daily amount of exercise. The findings, from a new report by healthcare charity, Nuffield Health and the London School of Economics, suggests that in an age of austerity for both the government and the public, by simply increasing the amount of physical activity undertaken, a positive impact could be achieved. The research shows that a staggering seven in 10 of adults do not meet the target of 150 minutes of exercise a week. However, by doing just 12 minutes more each day the UK could save £7 billion* in costs of associated NHS treatments, welfare and loss of earnings. On top of this household income for those who do exercise is £6,500 a year higher.

This new report – 12 minutes more…, uses the data from the annual Health Survey for England (HSE)**. The research highlights the huge health benefits for those who do take part in physical activity and the health risks and associated costs of inactivity to the UK population. It suggests that by ‘moving more’ – people can lower their cholesterol (by 6 per cent) and risk of high blood pressure (by 4 per cent), cut the risk of lifestyle related diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, while controlling their weight. Active people are not only 7 per cent less likely to be obese, but they also reduce their risk of poor mental health by 6 per cent.

Nuffield Health calls for every person in the UK to do an extra 12 minutes a day of physical activity to reach the recommended levels and benefit from improved health and fitness, while helping to boost productivity.

Dr Andrew Jones, Managing Director – Corporate Wellbeing, Nuffield Health, says: “Health benefits for active people are priceless, but with increased pressures both in the workplace and at home, as well as the struggling economy, we, as employers have a responsibility to help our workforce to be as resilient, fit and well as possible. Although helping business to develop sustainable practices is important, it is the productivity and success of our people that has the greatest impact. Poor mental health can be very isolating, support is crucial, but wellbeing programmes and prevention can do so much more.

“Our research shows the positive impact of regular physical activity on many health measures, but importantly on mental health. As a GP I see time and again people with good reasons to be more active and a genuine desire to do it, but somehow actually doing more doesn’t quite come to fruition. Once the decision to take part in activity is made our research shows about ten sessions in a month are completed. At Nuffield Health we know that if someone doesn’t have a love of physical activity it can be difficult to do enough, we offer regular free educational events, advice and support to find out what works for them.”

A fluid look at the health and financial outcomes for people living in the UK who choose to participate /or not, in physical activity, the data shows people who do not exercise have almost 80,000 more hospital inpatient visits a year. With the cost of an inpatient stay in an NHS hospital £3,215*** this demonstrates a potential cost saving of £257 million a year, if people were to get active.

Overall as income of a household rises, the likelihood of specific health problems goes down – exercise helps to balance the differences. The report also suggests people living in low-income households (<£23,400) could gain double the benefits of being physically active thereby further lowering their risk of psychological distress. The data also revealed 30 per cent of respondents in the HSE 2007 would be encouraged to get active if advised by their GP. Half of respondents said having more leisure time would encourage them to participate in sport or exercise and nearly 4 in ten people (40 per cent) blamed work commitments for their lack of participation. Suggesting employers and medical professionals have an important role to play.

David Mobbs, CEO, Nuffield Health, says: “The health benefits from increased physical activity have long been known, but this research also shows that exercise is a cheap policy option compared with continuing to treat the ill health which results from physical inactivity.

“It doesn’t require expensive structural changes to the public sector or government legislation. We don’t need to nag people into doing activities they hate. We simply need a more exercise friendly environment and for each of us to think differently about how to be more active every day. We are calling on everyone who cares about the health and wealth of the UK population to join us in coming up with ways we can all move 12 minutes more…”