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Get people moving to improve nation's health

25 March 2015

In a report published today, looking at the impact of physical activity and diet on people’s health, the Health Committee concludes that there needs to be far greater emphasis on the benefits of physical activity and that this is independent of issues such as obesity.

The inquiry heard evidence that:

  • Diet, obesity, and physical activity all have important impacts on health. For too long, however, physical activity has been seen merely in the light of its benefits in tackling obesity. A core message from this inquiry is the compelling evidence that physical activity in its own right has huge health benefits totally independent of a person's weight. The importance of this—regardless of weight, age, gender or other factors—needs to be clearly communicated.
  • Interventions focused on encouraging individuals to change their behaviour with regard to diet and physical activity need to be underpinned by broader, population-level measures. Whilst both are important, population-level interventions have the advantage of impacting on far greater numbers than could ever benefit from individual interventions. The Committee recommends that the next Government prioritises prevention, health promotion and early intervention to tackle the health inequalities and avoidable harm resulting from poor diet and physical inactivity. Tackling these problems will require action at all levels and must also be core business for the NHS and local authorities.
  • The Committee regards it as inexplicable and unacceptable that the NHS is now spending more on bariatric surgery for obesity than on a national roll-out of intensive lifestyle intervention programmes that were first shown to cut obesity and prevent diabetes over a decade ago. All tiers of weight management services should be universally available and individual clinicians should use every opportunity to help their patients to recognise and address the problems caused by obesity and poor diet, and to promote the benefits of physical activity.

Chair's comments

The Chair of the Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, said

"The extraordinary benefits of exercise in improving physical and mental health should be made clear and accessible to everyone, whatever their current level of fitness. The committee calls on the NHS, Local Authorities and the next government to work together to prioritise prevention and public health and we have set out achievable recommendations for action which could help to transform people's lives and wellbeing."

Conclusions and recommendations

A full list of the Committee's conclusions and recommendations are listed below:

Further information