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Four women enjoy a walk in a local park
Four women enjoy a walk in a local park

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New research shows worrying increase in sedentary behaviour in Great Britain

Specialist Advisor for Physical Activity for Health Barry Kelly looks at new research which describes a steep increase in the levels of sedentary behaviour in Great Britain, and what it means for London Sport's mission.

The work we do at London Sport is extremely diverse.

We need a broad range of approaches to increase the physical activity levels of young children, teenagers, working adults and older adults to ensure every Londoner enjoys the benefits of an active lifestyle.

This includes supporting community groups to access funding, developing London’s workforce, enabling tech start-ups to thrive, opening up data so access to activity is easier and much more.

We want to see all Londoners meet the Chief Medical Officer’s physical activity guidance which, for adults, is 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity every week.

At the same time, it acknowledges that for some people this might happen more gradually and that just "doing something is better than doing nothing".

The guidelines, updated in 2019, also explain how adults should “minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary and when physically possible should break up long period of inactivity.”

The guidance, and our work, may seem extremely complex – and at times it is – but, at its core, our aim to get people to move more in their everyday lives could not be simpler.

New research though, published by BMC Public Health, shows just how much work there is to do. Scientists have reported a significant rise in sedentary behaviour in Great Britain between 2002 and 2017.

Researchers found that the percentage of adults who are sedentary for more than 4.5 hours a day had risen by 22.5% in Great Britain, a much greater increase than in Spain (3.9%) and Germany (7.4%).

The age group with the largest increase in physical inactivity was 35 to 44-year-olds (up to 50.4%) but the majority of young people (58.3%) and those over 65 (55.6%) are struggling with sedentary behaviours too.

Xián Mayo Mauriz, one of the co-authors, said: "Sitting for more than four-and-a-half hours per day is associated with an increased risk of suffering from illnesses such as heart disease.

“Our findings suggest that in addition to encouraging physical activity, governments should focus on reducing the amount of time people spend sitting per day.”

And with many Londoners currently working from home, that’s more time on video calls, eating lunch at their desk or the sofa, and not walking to meetings or to/from public transport hubs.

The fear then is that these trends continue, instead we must try to put them into reverse.

If you need support with your work in helping Londoners to move more and enjoy a more active lifestyle, get in touch with London Sport here




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London Sport aims to ensure Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity

About London Sport

London Sport aims to ensure more Londoners live happier, healthier lives through sport and physical activity. Supported by the Mayor of London and Sport England, our target is to get Londoners more physically active.

For more information on London Sport, visit

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