Survey Finds More Men Than Women Meeting Physical Activity Guidelines

New figures released by NHS Digital show that more men than women are meeting physical activity guidelines.

According to the Health Survey for England 2016 figures released on 13 December 2017, almost two-thirds of men (66%) met national activity guidelines in 2016, compared to 58% of women.

The Health Survey for England series monitors trends in the nation’s health, covering differing topics each year – including obesity, wellbeing, smoking and drinking. The national surveys collect information from both adults and children.

Physical Activity

Adults aged between 19 and 64 should be performing a minimum of 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate intensity activity per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more. One way to achieve this goal is by doing 30 minutes, at least 5 days per week.

It seems that where people live affects how much physical activity they do. For example, London had the highest proportion (65%) of people aged 16 or over meeting the guidelines for physical activity. The West Midlands had the lowest proportion (53%), which is significantly less than the national average of 62%.

Interestingly, the survey found that while men were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than women, they were also, on average, more sedentary than women when not at their paid work.

Obesity Figures

The survey also found that 26% of men and 27% of women were obese. However, the proportion of obese adults has barely changed since 2010. Furthermore, being overweight was more common than being obese, with 40% of men and 30% of women found to be overweight, but not obese.

In 2016, 16% of children aged two to 15 were obese. A further 12% of children in the same age bracket were overweight (but not obese). Furthermore, obesity levels among children have remained level since 2005.

Mental Health and Wellbeing

The NHS Digital survey also uncovered an increase in the number of adults with a high GHQ-12 score, from 15% in 2012 to 19% in 2016.

Data on mental health was collected using the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12), a 12-item questionnaire designed to provide an indication of probable mental health issues. It focuses on areas such as general levels of happiness, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and self-confidence.

While most age groups showed some increase in probable mental ill health, the largest increases were seen among men aged 16-24 and 25-34, and women aged 16-24.

In 2012, 9% of men in both the 16-24 and 25-34 age brackets had probable mental ill health. In 2016, 16% of those aged 16-24, and 18% of those aged 25-34, had probable mental ill health.

In 2012, 21% of women aged 16-24 had probable mental ill health, compared to 28% in 2016.

All this creates a clear picture of the state of health – physical and mental – across the UK. Are you meeting the government’s physical activity guidelines and undertaking 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week? If not, the New Year provides a great opportunity to start doing so.


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