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New global overview of physical activity

Global report shows Scotland most active UK nation

People in Scotland are more active than any other nation in the UK, according to a new global report on physical activity levels.

The analysis, published today by the Global Observatory for Physical Activity (GoPA), shows that 64 per cent of adults in Scotland met the recommended guidelines for physical activity in 2013. In England the figure is 59 per cent, in Northern Ireland 53 per cent and in Wales 29 per cent.

GoPA have published the data as part of a set of physical activity ‘country cards’ for 131 different countries around the world. The cards detail rates of activity, percentage of deaths from inactivity, and other data such as the number of researchers engaged in physical activity work.

For Scotland the figures were taken from the Scottish Health Survey 2013. They relate to the recommendation that adults should take part in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week.

There is growing awareness that physical inactivity is a major public health challenge. Inactivity accounts for 16.9 per cent of all deaths in the United Kingdom and over five million deaths a year worldwide.

The Scottish Government has taken a number of measures to encourage physical activity. A number of projects have been funded around Scotland, including those aimed at specific groups furthest away from meeting guidelines like older adults and teenage girls.

There has been an increase in schools providing two hours or periods of PE in the last decade, from less than 10 per cent in 2004 to 98 per cent in 2015. A total of 188 projects have received funding through the Legacy 2014 Active Places fund, and there will be 150 Community Sports Hubs across Scotland by 2016.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health, said:

“It is encouraging to see that people in Scotland are more likely to hit physical activity guidelines than those in other parts of the UK. The guidelines say that all adults should take 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

“It’s important to stress that this is moderate activity. Walking, gardening and even cleaning all count towards your total. Failing to be active can have serious consequences for your health. It is linked to a host of health conditions including heart disease, Stroke, dementia and cancer.

“We want more people to be physically active in Scotland, and that’s why we’re investing in hundreds of projects around the country. This includes projects focussed on some groups, like teenage girls and older adults, who are less likely to be physically active.”

The data on Scotland was compiled by Professor Nanette Mutrie, Chair in Physical Activity for Health at the University of Edinburgh.

Professor Mutrie said:

“This is good news for the health in Scotland because physical activity confers both physical and mental health benefits. But we must not be complacent because some segments of the population have low levels of physical activity. For example a very small percentage of older adults achieve the recommended physical activity levels and they are therefore missing major health benefits from activity. Scottish policy should continue to promote walking as one the easiest place for low active people to start to increase everyday activity.”


To view the full set of Global Observatory for Physical Activity country scorecards visit

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