Olympian Farah and Boris back activity move

London Mayor Boris Johnson (left) with gold medallist Mo Farah.
London Mayor Boris Johnson (left) with gold medallist Mo Farah. Photo: London Tonight

Olympic star Mo Farah and London mayor Boris Johnson have visited a school in the capital to demand major changes in policy to help tackle the UK's increasing physical inactivity.

The pair met children at Lilian Baylis School in Kennington, south London, to give their backing to a report that warns England faces an "epidemic of physical inactivity" unless the Government changes the nation's sporting infrastructure.

The Move It report, written by the Young Foundation, found that while London 2012 provided a fantastic showcase for elite British sport, fewer people are taking part in physical activity.

Move It says that just 5% - one in 20 - of adults are exercising for the government-recommended level of two and a half hours a week.

A separate study, Designed To Move, found that today's children are the first generation to have a life expectancy shorter than their parents, and that a nine-year-old today in the UK will be 50% less active by the time they turn 15.

The Young Foundation says that more people getting involved in sport and exercise will improve healthy outlooks and mental health, reduce crime and create more cohesive communities, and increase educational results.

It is calling on the Government to:

  • Recognise grassroots sport as well as elite and competitive sports, putting young people at the heart of policy-making;
  • Reprioritise sport at school by creating a strategy that incorporates its health, education and culture, media and sport departments;
  • Improve funding and encourage corporate investment in grassroots sport;
  • Be more consistent in the way it measures physical activity in schools, to create greater accountability to make sport count.

Dr Will Norman, director of research at The Young Foundation, said:

Our enthusiasm for watching sport seems to know no bounds. The problem is that we sit at home watching it, rather than participating ourselves.

This report outlines the steps we feel need to be taken, in order to prevent an epidemic of inactivity that is costing a fortune and threatens the health and wellbeing of millions.

Lilian Baylis is among nine schools taking part in a three-year programme to demonstrate some of the recommendations of the Move It and Designed To Move reports.

1,200 children between seven and 12 will take part in 12 hours of physical activity a week, including PE, after-school clubs and community sports sessions.

PhD students at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital will carry out a three-year project to assess the health outcomes.