Research suggests sport is not the answer in making the UK active

10 February 2017

Today the UK Government published its first year progress report on its strategy, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation.

However, recent research published by Professor Mike Weed, Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, argues that the underlying assumption that promoting sport increases physical activity among the less and least active, is not credible.

Should we privilege sport for health? The comparative effectiveness of UK Government investment in sport as a public health intervention, unpicks government spending on its sport strategy. It suggests that a focus on sport, and particularly recent approaches that promote physical activity under the auspices of sport and through sport organisations, is not an effective way to increase physical activity levels among the less and least active. 

Professor Weed, said: “There is no evidence from controlled research designs to support the assumption that sport participation can sustainably increase physical activity among the less and least active. My analysis of sport and physical activity participation data over the last 40 years shows that, since 1990, despite significant and sustained government investment in sport, sport participation has stagnated or fallen.

“In addition, since 1997 an extra 12% of the population became physically active as defined by Chief Medical Officer guidelines. This clearly shows that the less and least active are looking for ways to become physically active that do not include sport, and that investing in sport on the basis that it will improve the physical activity and physical health of the less and least active is not credible. In fact, in comparison to the lost opportunity of investing in wider physical activity choices that do not privilege sport, government investment in sport may even be causing net harm to the physical health of the UK population.”

Professor Weed continued: “Today’s first year report on Sporting Future claims that investments in sport projects for a range of groups, particularly extending investments to children from 5-14 and boosting investment in school sport, are indicators of the success of the strategy. But, why would government sport investment, that has been unsuccessful in raising physical activity among adults for more than a quarter of a century, be extended to school children? There is no evidence that investment in sport to increase physical activity works, extending that investment is not a success, it is a failure.”

The report, Should we privilege sport for health? The comparative effectiveness of UK Government investment in sport as a public health intervention, is published in the International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics.

Notes to Editor

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With 17,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 96% of our UK undergraduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.
  • We are one of the South East’s largest providers of education, training and skills leading to public service careers.

*2014/15 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey


Connect with us

Last edited: 14/12/2018 23:29:00