Skip to main content
12 Sep 2023 | 11:11
  • Sector bodies unite in drive to make the UK the most active nation in Europe.
  • UK currently ranks joint 11th out of 15 comparable European nations for levels of physical activity.
  • Community sport, recreation and physical activity currently saves the NHS £9.5billion every year by preventing illness.

Leading bodies for the sport, recreation and physical activity sector have called on the main political parties and their leaders to pledge to make the UK the most active nation in Europe.

The UK ranks joint 11th out of 15 comparable European nations for levels of physical activity, according to the latest evidence from the Sport and Recreation Alliance. It is also ranked as the third-highest spender on healthcare costs caused by inactivity, and ninth for overall wellbeing.

The call from the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG) builds on its report 'Unlocking The Potential' published in July 2022. The NSPG comprises Active Partnerships, the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA), the Sport for Development Coalition, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, ukactive and the Youth Sport Trust.

pledge 2

The report highlights a number of potential policy interventions that could provide the conditions for the sector to grow. These include:

  • Deeper collaboration between Government departments, agencies and the sector.
  • Development of a strong and consistent evidence base around the importance of physical activity.
  • More, and better-targeted investment.
  • Bold and ambitious policy reform.

Parliamentarians from across the House joined representatives from the NSPG to launch the new pledge, which highlights how community sport, recreation and physical activity currently saves the NHS £9.5billion every year by preventing illness and generates £85billion annually in economic value. Read the full pledge.

The value generated by the sector could be far greater if the UK could reach the activity levels of its European peers and work towards the NSPG's ambition of making the UK the most active nation in Europe.


The NSPG project savings of up to £1billion in healthcare spending linked to inactivity, alongside the generation of an additional £3.6billion per annum in GDP uplift through increased productivity and realising up to £77.2billion in increased wellbeing benefits.

They are calling for a new partnership with Government which will unlock the full potential of sport, recreation and physical activity, and builds a future where:

  • All children and adults are given the best chance to live well for longer.
  • Communities are safer, greener, healthier and more connected.
  • Prevention leads to significantly less pressure on the NHS and other key public services.
  • The economy is boosted by a healthier and more productive workforce.

Speaking at the launch, the Chief Executive of ukactive, Huw Edwards (pictured below, right), said: "There is a collective determination across the sport, recreation, and physical activity sector to ensure that its full potential is unlocked in order to make the urgent improvements to our national health and wellbeing. As we enter the countdown to the next General Election, we want each of the main political parties to meet our ambition and commit to this pledge.

"This pledge is a first step in recognising the impact of physical activity on our health and wellbeing, and in turn on the productivity of this country. Now we need Parliamentarians from across the House to drive this agenda forward."

pledge 3

Attending the launch on behalf of the Sport for Development Coalition was Mark Lawrie (pictured above, second from right), the Chief Executive of StreetGames and co-Chair of the Coalition’s Policy Working Group. Mark said: “Sport and physical activity are central to the ability of Coalition member organisations to change lives for the better, and have a fundamental role to play in building a healthier, happier and more prosperous nation. This is more important than ever during a cost-of-living crisis, and we therefore wholly endorse and support the ambition set out in this pledge.”

The Coalition is a growing UK-wide network of more than 400 charities and organisations using sport and physical activity-based interventions to support key policy priorities such as reducing crime and unemployment, and improving health, wellbeing and community cohesion.

Further information

pledge 7Read the full pledge here.

For more detail about the research underpinning this pledge, please read the research pack here.

For future information and to arrange an interview with sector representatives, please contact [email protected]

About the NSPG

The National Sector Partners Group comprises:

Through our collaborative work as sector partners, we aim to engage decision-makers to improve the operating landscape for the sector and embed sport, recreation and physical activity as a key contributor to wider public policy objectives.  

As part of wider work through the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG), in 2022 we published Unlocking the Potential which sets out how sport, recreation and physical activity can be integral to successfully delivering a number of key Government priorities including Levelling Up, driving economic growth, achieving Net Zero and supporting the NHS. The report also proposes a range of systemic interventions including access to investment, tax and regulatory changes and wider policy reform which the NSPG believes are key to maximising this role.