Physical Activity


The risks of being inactive for people’s health is well established, but nonetheless significant numbers of children, young people and adults across BCP Council and Dorset Council are missing out on the benefits of ‘moving more’. The impact of inactivity on people’s health & wellbeing and for wider society, including the health & care system, presents wide reaching challenges. Conversely, addressing inactivity and enabling more people to enjoy moving more as part of daily life offers significant opportunities for population health, communities, the environment and the economy. 

In 2021 Active Dorset and Public Health Dorset reviewed the available data on physical activity levels locally and engaged stakeholders in a process of workshops to develop our shared understanding of this challenge. This documents sets out to synthesise the key information that emerged from this exercise, tell the story of the local system that drives physical inactivity, it’s causes and effects and share participants’ insights into how we can chart a course towards increasing physical activity locally. 

Physical Activity JSNA Needs Assessment

Current Picture

Being physically active plays a key role in the health and wellbeing of many people across Bournemouth, Christchurch & Poole (BCP) and Dorset from childhood to later life. Being active supports both mental and physical health, and can reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer. 

A lack of physical activity is associated with 1 in 6 deaths in the UK and up to 40% of many long term and preventable conditions including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Across Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area 4.3% of people were living with a diagnosis of coronary heart disease and heart failure during 2019/20.

Public Health England Cardivascular Disease profile for Dorset CCG

Sport England's Active Lives survey collects data on physical activity levels for adults and young people. During the period November 2019 - November 2020:

  • 19.9% (63,300 people) of adults (16+) in Dorset Council area did less than 30 minutes activity per week
  • 30.6% (100,000 people) of adults (16+) in BCP Council area did less than 30 minutes activity per week 

During the academic year September 2019 to September 2020

  • 35.5% (20,600) children and young people (school years 1 to 11) did less activity per week

BCP Council areas: percentage of physical active adults
Dorset Council area: percentage of physical active adults


Local Insights

In 2021 Active Dorset and Public Health Dorset launched an online conversation asking organisations and individuals for their views on the local causes and effects of physical inactivity. Participants were then asked what they are currently doing to support and encourage people to ‘move more’ and for their ideas on how people could be supported to increase their level of physical activity. Following this, in March 2021, workshops were held with key stakeholders from across BCP and Dorset to explore their perspectives on the causes and effects of physical activity. Common themes expressed by stakeholders included:

  • Competing pressures and priorities can outweigh the ‘value’ attached to physical activity – motivation, enjoyment and understanding of how to be active plays a key role in shaping the extent to which people take advantage of opportunities be active in daily life.
  • The environment people live and work in can reinforce the ‘norm’ of inactivity by making movement challenging and sedentary behaviour  convenient through how they are designed and used. For example, availability of facilities that can support physical activity for some, but don’t meet other people’s needs and motivation, environments that prioritise car use over walking and cycling and fear of actual or perceived risks (e.g. traffic, crime etc)
  • Physical and mental health can trap people in a cycle of inactivity driven by ‘fear’. This inactivity is driven by both perceived and actual ability and has a detrimental impact on peoples’ health and wellbeing further impacting on their ability to be active.
  • A ‘norm’ of inactivity learnt from family and social peers lays the foundation for physical inactivity and leaves people ‘missing out’ on the benefits of shared participation in physical activity e.g. for social interaction, family life. 

For greater interactivity and access to side panels containing additional information and links, follow this link to the embedded Kumu map below. For guidance on how to use it look at this link (how do I read a systems map).

JSNA System that drives physical inactivity