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How active are people where you live? Report ranks local authorities by residents' activity levels

Olympic borough, Newham ranked least active place in England but across London Richmond is the most active

Newham, the London borough that was at the centre of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, has the highest levels of inactivity in England, according to a new report. In response, its council has made a tenfold increase in spending to combat the issue, says the report which ranks 150 local authorities by their residents' levels of inactivity.

The report, called Steps to Solving Inactivity, has been published by the not-for-profit public health body ukactive. It found that nationally, 29% of people living in England are classified as being physically inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as cycling or fast walking, a week.

In response to what ukactive describes as the country’s “inactivity epidemic,” it found councils are doubling the level of public health grant allocated to the issue, from an average of 2 per cent to 4 per cent.

It says that the increased investment reflects a willingness to address the issue, which its first report on the subject, published last year, said was linked to one in six premature deaths.

Seven in ten local authorities have increased spend in this area for 2014/15, and Newham is among those that have seen the biggest jump.

The borough, home to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and ExCel London, which together hosted more than half of the 26 Olympic sports at London 2012, was found to have 39 per cent of people living there ranked as inactive.

In response, its investment to combat inactivity has risen tenfold from £216,000 in 2013/14 to £2.1 million this year, says ukactive, making up 15.6 per cent of its public health budget.

Two other London boroughs, neighbouring Barking & Redbridge and Enfield, which lies further up the River Lea from Newham, are among the 10 local authorities with the highest proportions of inactive residents.

Four of the other seven local authorities on the list are located in the northwest – Blackpool, Tameside, Knowlsley and Oldham.

Local authorities with highest levels of inactivity (per cent of adults)

LB Newham                     39.17
LB Barking and Dagenham       38.82
Blackpool                     38.21
Tameside                      38.06
Stoke-on-Trent                37.95
Hartlepool                    37.30
North Lincolnshire            37.07
Knowsley                      37.07
Oldham                        36.96
LB Enfield                    36.95

Across the capital, Richmond-upon-Thames came out as the English local authority with the lowest levels of inactivity. The borough has one of the highest levels of cycle commuters in London, while amenities such as Richmond Park or the Thames Path attract people on bike or foot alike.

Local authorities with lowest levels of inactivity (per cent of adults)

LB Richmond upon Thames       16.34
LB Wandsworth                 19.45
Leeds                         21.05
LB Lambeth                    21.22
Bedford                       21.98
Rutland                       22.33
Wokingham                     22.53
York                          22.70
RB Kingston upon Thames       22.71
Bracknell Forest              23.05

York, ranked eighth, also has much higher levels of cycling than the national average, as do three local authorities immediately outside the top ten – Oxfordshire, Brighton & Hove and Bath & North East Somerset.

The report from ukactive recommends:

• Health and Wellbeing Boards have a designated physical activity champion who will specifically work to ensure its appropriate integration and provision based on local needs.

• Cementing physical activity planning  into areas such as public health, social care, education, environmental planning and transport policies.

• Implementing a more data-oriented approach to measuring programme outcomes and benchmarking progress across the physical activity sector.

David Stalker, CEO of ukactive, said: "We've known for some time that we're facing an uphill battle to reverse the inactivity trend and while the increase in funding represents a seismic shift in thinking amongst local authorities, building a sound evidence base to underpin the activity will be the ultimate difference between success and failure."

Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the report, describing ukactive’s work as “important” and saying it demonstrated the need to address the problem of physical inactivity.

He said: “I am delighted that local authorities are leading the way by starting to prioritise physical activity services in their local areas and in accordance to the local needs of their residents.

“The government has made it clear through our 'Moving More, Living More' initiative that departments will work together, with the Mayor of London's teams, to embed physical activity into the DNA of the nation as part of the long term physical activity legacy from the 2012 Games."

Newham’s unenviable status as England’s least active local authority has raised concerns over what benefits they are receiving from the much-heralded Olympic legacy, although that is likely to have been hampered by the works needed following London 2-012.

Much of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is now open to the public, including what is now the Lea Valley VeloPark and the London Aquatics Centre, which reopened in March this year.

Last month, a report commissioned by British Cycling said that increasing levels of cycling in Britain to those seen in Denmark could save the NHS £17 billion over the next two decades.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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