Making the UK the most active nation in Europe

UK lags behind European neighbours on activity as sector bodies unite in drive to make the UK the most active nation in Europe.

The Youth Sport Trust were pleased to join other members of the National Sector Partner Group at the Houses of Parliament today (13th Sep) to launch our joint ambition to make the UK the most active nation in Europe and call on the main political parties and their leaders to work with us to make this happen.

The latest evidence from the Sport and Recreation Alliance shows that the UK ranks joint 11th out of 15 comparable European nations for levels of physical activity. The UK is the third highest spender on healthcare costs caused by inactivity and only ninth for overall wellbeing. There is an urgent need to increase levels of physical activity across all parts of the country, and today’s pledge challenges political leaders to make this a priority.

Today’s call builds on the July 2022 report, Unlocking the Potential, published by the group, which is made up of Active Partnerships, the Local Government Association, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity, the Sport for Development Coalition, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, ukactive, and the Youth Sport Trust.

The report highlights a number of potential policy interventions that could provide the conditions for the sector to grow. These include:

  • Deeper collaboration between Government departments, agencies and the sector
  • Development of a strong and consistent evidence base for importance of physical activity
  • More and better targeted investment
  • Bold and ambitious policy reform.

After attending the launch and speaking to MPs, Emily Reynolds, Director of Programmes at the Youth Sport Trust said:

“I was delighted to be in the room today and see the interest and support for the NSPG’s pledge from Parliamentarians right across the political spectrum. While it’s clear that creating a more active nation is important, what was refreshing for me to see was an understanding from those present of the wider benefits of activity to the health and social fabric of the country. I hope that today can be a first step to creating a wider narrative and compelling case for action for those who weren’t in the room.”

The pledge highlights that community sport, recreation and physical activity currently saves the NHS £9.5 billion every year by preventing illness and generates £85 billion annually in economic value.

However, the value generated by the sector could be far greater if the UK can reach the activity levels of our European peers and work towards the National Sector Partner Group’s ambition of making the UK the most active nation in Europe.

Delivering on this ambition could generate savings of up to £1 billion in healthcare spending linked to inactivity, alongside the creation of an additional £3.6 billion per annum in GDP uplift through increased productivity and realising up to £77.2 billion in increased wellbeing benefits.

The group is calling for a new partnership with Government – both now and in the future – that unlocks the potential of sport, recreation and physical activity, and builds a future where:

  • All children and adults are given the best chance to live well for longer
  • Communities are safer, greener, healthier, and more connected
  • Prevention leads to significantly less pressure on the NHS and other key public services
  • Our economy is boosted by a healthier and more productive workforce.

Youth Sport Trust CEO Ali Oliver said about the pledge launched today:

“I am very pleased that the Youth Sport Trust is working with our partners to present a unified voice across the sector in the lead up to the next election. Our country is an undoubted world leader in elite sport and as the research launched today shows, it makes good political and economic sense to mirror that status and become a world leader in grassroots sport and national levels of physical activity.

“We believe the generational crisis we are seeing around child and adolescent mental health, increasingly sedentary lifestyles and reduced human connection in the digital age is a matter of national concern. We believe this ambition to become the most active nation in Europe can inspire political parties to make activity a priority as we move towards the next election and drive joined up policy, advocacy and investment across government, helping to create a healthier, happier nation.”

Published on 13 September 2023