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Sport England announces £5.8m to tackle inactivity as research reveals its huge cost to NHS

March 28, 2013

  •  £5.8 million National Lottery investment by Sport England to tackle inactivity
  • New figures show annual cost of inactivity to NHS in England is almost £1bn
  • Chief Medical Officer: “If physical activity was a drug it would be regarded as a miracle”.

Thousands of people living with and beyond cancer are among those who will be helped to get more active after Sport England announced £5.8 million through its Get Healthy Get Into Sport fund.

Half a million pounds for Macmillan Cancer Support means the charity can support many more women like 42-year-old Kate Gross, a breast cancer survivor from Dorset who was helped to get involved in a dragon boat team.

She said: “Chemotherapy treatment is a gruelling process - both physically and mentally. I have always been active and a great believer that physical activity is good for you mentally to get through treatment. My consultant backed this up as it is a way to help the body repair quicker.

“I have been involved in dragon boating for a few years, with a group set up specifically for breast cancer patients. This has been a lifeline, not only the exercise but the support of people who understand what you are going through.”

Macmillan is one of 14 groups benefitting from the Sport England funding, which comes as new research shows that the cost of inactivity to the NHS in England is £944 million .

Sport England’s Chief Executive, Jennie Price, said: “We are paying a heavy price for inactivity both in terms of people’s health and the burden on the NHS. These lottery-funded projects will help tens of thousands of people to get healthier and demonstrate the value of investing in sport and physical activity.”

The Chief Medical Officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, said: “If physical activity was a drug it would be regarded as a miracle, so everyone must take this seriously.

“Even relatively small amounts of exercise can have huge benefits to your health and help prevent serious health conditions like diabetes, cancer and heart disease for example, adults can get their 150 minutes of activity a week in sessions of ten minutes or more.

“Everyone has a role to play and providing opportunities for those least active to get involved in sport could make a big difference to the nation's fitness.”

From the start of April, local authorities take on responsibility for public health. Sport and physical activity is among the areas where a budget of £5.45bn can be invested over the next two years.

In total around 130,000 inactive people are expected to get involved in sport through Sport England’s Get Healthy Get Into Sport fund which will explore a wide range of ways to use sport to improve health. The funded projects include:

  • Durham County Council will target people who are risk of cardio-vascular disease and diabetes and get them involved in a range of sports (Sport England lottery funding: £500,000)
  • The British Heart Foundation National Centre will work with councils and health partners to tackle inactivity in Newham, East London, with part of the programme aimed at educating doctors about the health benefits of sport and then helping them to track the progress of inactive people who take up sporting opportunities (Sport England lottery funding: £499,969).

The Macmillan project will open up fresh sporting opportunities for cancer patients in 10 parts of England, including work in Oxford to help 14- to 25-year-olds with cancer to get active. Macmillan is investing a further £230,000 in the scheme.

Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We are thrilled that Sport England has awarded Macmillan £500,000 which will go towards developing our range of opportunities for cancer survivors to become more active through sport.

“Every year in the UK hundreds of millions of pounds is spent on drugs to help prevent and treat cancer. However being physically active significantly helps reduce the side-effects from gruelling treatment and for some cancers can prevent recurrence and death.

“There are currently 1.6 million cancer survivors in the UK who are not physically active at recommended levels. If exercise was a drug, it would be a wonder drug. This funding will go a long way to ensure that thousands of cancer patients are not missing out.”

Sport England’s announcement was welcomed by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who said: "The overwhelming benefits of exercising more are clear, but with a third of children overweight by the age of 11 boosting sports provision in schools will help us tackle this country's obesity problem.

"The new figures for the costs of inactivity are startling and we cannot afford to let our children grow up without access to sport and exercise. We recently announced a £60m contribution to the sports premium to allow more primary school children to get up and active."

Physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality after high blood pressure, tobacco use and high blood glucose.

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The leading risk factors for global mortality are: high blood pressure (13%); tobacco use (9%); high blood glucose (6%); physical inactivity (6%); Obesity/overweight (5%)

Sport England is focused on helping people and communities across the country create a sporting habit for life. They will invest over £1 billion of National Lottery and Exchequer funding between 2012 and 2017 in organisations and projects that will:

  • Help more people have a sporting habit for life
  • Create more opportunities for young people to play sport
  • Nurture and develop talent
  • Provide the right facilities in the right places
  • Support local authorities and unlock local funding
  • Ensure real opportunities for communities.

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