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Understanding and addressing inequalities in physical activity: evidence-based guidance for commissioners




Public Health England

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This report presents the findings of a study to further understand levels of inequalities in physical activity across and within protected characteristic groups. The study used 3 data sets; a realist review, a quantitative analysis of Sport England’s Active Lives Survey (2015-2019), and qualitative research with practitioners delivering physical interventions to communities with protected characteristics. The results identified a range of inequalities in individual’s physical activity levels from different protected characteristic groups and therefore changes are needed immediately to reverse these. Even before the COVID-19 restrictions, physical inactivity had been increasing and this is particularly the case for women. However, there were statistically significant positive improvements in physical activity for older adults. Other protected characteristics and showed some improvements in activity, however, these were not statistically significant. Three major themes have been identified for commissioners to consider as actions to reduce inequalities in physical activity: enablers, barriers and identifying opportunity; community consultation, engagement, and partnership; and holistic approach for protected characteristics and intersectionality. The study has highlighted urgent action which is needed to ensure the physical activity workforce is diversely represented. Solutions should be sought in partnership with communities so that individuals can take ownership of what is being delivered. Interventions should be fluid to meet practical, environmental, social, and psychological individual needs; and aligned with understanding of demographic data to ensure intervention design is targeted and in direct consultation with the community to ensure interventions are needs driven. (Edited publisher abstract)

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