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Northern Ireland has UK’s highest percentage of adults not doing enough exercise, new survey shows

CSP press release published on 1 July 2009

The CSP launches its Move for Health campaign with new figures suggesting the poor state of Northern Ireland's health and fitness

Nearly three quarters of adults in Northern Ireland could be threatening their future health because of a lack of exercise, according to a new survey [1] by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP). 72 per cent of those questioned said they were not getting enough exercise, and could therefore be putting themselves at greater risk of life threatening illnesses like cancer, heart disease and stroke. The warning comes as the CSP launches a new UK-wide campaign, 'Move for Health' today (Wednesday 1 July) to highlight the importance of exercise in maintaining good health and preventing illness. To encourage people to be more physically active, the CSP has produced a free, downloadable Easy Exercise Guide. Despite overwhelming evidence that regular exercise combats obesity and decreases the chance of developing a serious illness, the CSP survey reveals many people in Northern Ireland are ignoring basic health advice. 20 per cent of those questioned exercise once a month or less. Although 53 per cent said that they would take regular exercise if it led to a longer or healthier life, and 73 per cent if it would help weight loss, the figures point to a significant gulf between what people say and do. Tom Sullivan, CSP policy officer for Northern Ireland, says:

"Most people know exercise is good for their health but when it comes to doing it, exercise simply isn't a priority. Regular physical activity is as important as eating five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, and people need to understand that you can't keep putting it off. Without sufficient physical activity you increase your risk of life-threatening illnesses".

The CSP survey also reveals confusion about how much exercise adults think they should be doing. Just 10 per cent of people in Northern Ireland know how much exercise they need to do each day, and two thirds (66 per cent) think the recommended amounts of exercise are less than they actually are [3]. The worryingly low levels of activity revealed by the survey suggest poor levels of fitness, with almost a quarter of people (24 per cent) saying they get out of breath fairly quickly from walking up a flight of stairs. The most common reason people in Northern Ireland gave for not taking regular exercise is that they are too busy with work (52 per cent - the highest percentage in the UK), while 28 per cent said they did not exercise because they feel too tired or unwell. Physiotherapists advise that regular exercise can benefit performance at work and treat lethargy, stress and depression. Nearly two thirds (65 per cent) of people said that they would take more regular exercise if they could fit it into their existing daily routine, and 42 per cent said it would help if exercise were free. The CSP 'Move for Health' campaign, encourages everyone, whatever their age or circumstance, to do more physical activity in order to maximize their health. Chartered physiotherapists around the UK are showing that exercise does not require expensive equipment or lots of spare time. The CSP's free 'Easy Exercise Guide' offers safe expert physiotherapy advice on how to fit exercise into a daily routine. Tom Sullivan says:

"Exercise doesn't need to be expensive, boring or time consuming. Just going outside at lunchtime for a half-hour walk every day will greatly increase your fitness levels. One of the best ways to counteract feeling ill and tired - one of the main reasons people don't exercise - is by becoming more active, which actually gives you more energy. "We're all aware that exercise is important for our health and finding an activity that you enjoy, such as dancing or gardening, will make it much easier to maintain the sort of lifestyle that is good for us. The CSP has a range of free materials to help you find easy ways to be more active without injuring yourself or overdoing it".

See on this website for free Move for Health advice and leaflets. The CSP is calling on the NHS and local authorities to widen access to exercise opportunities and invest in popular activities for people of all ages, such as swimming, aerobics classes, gym sessions and cycling. Ends For further information please call the CSP press office on 020 7306 1111. Out of hours please call Jennie Edmondson, CSP head of press and PR, on 07786 332197.

Notes to editors

  1. The survey was conducted by Opinium Research for CSP, through an online poll of 2,084 UK adults between 9 and 14 April 2009. Results have been weighted to representative criteria.
  2. The CSP's Move for Health campaign launches on Wednesday 1 July 2009 and aims to promote good health through encouraging appropriate physical activity and by highlighting how physiotherapists can help to prevent illness and obesity.
  3. The recommended amount of exercise is one hour every day for children and thirty minutes at least five times a week for adults.
  4. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy is the professional, educational and trade union body for the UK's 48,000 chartered physiotherapists, physiotherapy students and assistants. See our previous press releases.
  5. Move for Health is in support of the Public Health Agency's physical activity campaign, Get a Life Get Active. In order to maintain a healthy weight we need to both eat better and move more. Many people are making changes that will help them live healthier and longer lives. Visit for more information.
  6. See a full breakdown of survey results by region on our survey data page


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