Exercise: we just don’t get enough


Professor Carol Propper, Professor of Economics at Imperial Collect Business School and the Economics Department of Bristol University has just completed a major study on levels of physical activity in Britain which suggests that most adults do so little exercise that they are risking their health.

Lee Millam went to talk to her.

Most work in this field has involved small scale studies, but Professor Propper’s research involved a million people over 5 years, across Britain, and questions included 400 plus sports.

When you have so much data it is possible to  look at the individual correlations of exercise with class, income, ethnicity, geographical location, family size etc.

The study was not about attitudes to exercise, so it did not look at why people do or don’t do exercise.  It simply described who does what.

And from this we know that education levels appear to have a major influence on exercise.  Only 12% of people with degrees don’t do any exercise (so 88% do), but for those who left school with no A-levels, the involvement in sport is much lower. .

As Professor Propper says, ‘What people don’t do enough of are the inexpensive everyday activities.’  Exercise gurus  and academics know know about this, but the scale of the study enables us to say with certainty that

  • 80% of us don’t hit government activity target 
  • Walking is the most common form of exercise
  • Ethnicity is a major factor e.g. women of South East Asian heritage tend to take less exercise than others
  • Richer people do more exercise, particularly they do the ‘more expensive’ sports that require equipment and time.





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