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20 May 2021
Nuffield research shows 8.8m Brits have done no exercise in the last 12 months
By Tom Walker
Nuffield research shows 8.8m Brits have done no exercise in the last 12 months
A quarter of those over 55 years of age have done no exercise at all in the last 12 months
Photo: Shutterstock/BAZA Production
Nearly four in five (73 per cent) Britons are failing to meet NHS recommendations on exercise, as a result of successive lockdowns leading to the formation of unhealthy habits.

In addition, there's evidence of a growing mental health crisis, as 41 per cent of Brits say their mental health has become worse in the past year.

The figures come from The Nuffield Health Healthier Nation Index, launched by the healthcare charity, which is based on a comprehensive survey of more than 8,000 Britons. Nuffield says the study offers one of the most detailed looks at the nation’s health since the start of the pandemic.

The Index reveals that, on average, a third of Britons (33 per cent) agree their physical health is worse now (April 2021) than it was a year ago, with older age groups reporting a worse decline.

Strikingly, only 10 per cent of those over 55 years of age agreed their physical health has improved.

Despite well-publicised evidence pointing to the link between obesity and severity of illness from COVID-19, and in the wake of the Prime Minister announcing a new obesity strategy last year, 16 per cent of the population – which accounts for an estimated 8.8 million adults – have done no exercise at all in the last 12 months.

This rises to a quarter of over 55s, despite research showing a lack of exercise to be one of the highest risk factors for death from COVID-19.

Reflecting on the findings, Judy Murray OBE, ambassador for the The Nuffield Health Healthier Nation Index, said: “This research shows that the pandemic has had a significant impact not only on the nation’s mental health – but also on our ability to exercise.

"The focus must now be on helping people get active to make sure we don’t store up problems for the future.

“It is deeply worrying that 1 in 4 people over the age of 55 haven’t exercised at all in the last year.

"We need to make sure everyone has the tools they need to look after their mental and physical health, and everyone should see 2021 as a critical opportunity to prioritise their health and wellbeing.”

Dr Davina Deniszczyc, Medical Director at Nuffield Health, said: “The findings from the Healthier Nation Index show the stark effect COVID-19 is having on people’s physical and mental health. There are some worrying trends that if not addressed could see us sleepwalking into another type of health pandemic.

"It is essential that we now focus on national recovery and the prevention of long-term health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart conditions.

"It’s shocking to see the levels of inactivity with the vast majority of people failing to meet NHS guidelines for exercise and many older people haven’t been doing any exercise at all.

"We need to do everything we can to increase exercise rates, reduce long term health conditions if we are to build the resilience of the nation’s health and avoid another health crisis.”

For more information and to download the The Nuffield Health Healthier Nation Index, click here.

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