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Key points

  • In England, 64% of adults are overweight or obese and only 34% of adults walk or cycle five times per week, on average.
  • A majority of adults are overweight or obese in nearly all local authorities, while a minority of adults walk or cycle more than five times per week in nearly all local authorities.

Increasing physical activity and minimising the time spent sitting down helps to maintain a healthy weight and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and depression. The NHS recommends that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.

This chart shows the relationship between the share of adults who self-identified as overweight (with a body mass index of over 25kg/m2) and the share of adults who walk or cycle regularly, by local authority in England in 2020/21. It shows a simple association between the two variables. Other factors are likely to contribute to these findings (such as commuting patterns or access to cycling routes) and the relationship can be two way, with higher obesity rates likely to mean less cycling and walking in each area and vice versa.

  • Regions outside London tend to have higher levels of obesity and lower levels of walking and cycling.
  • In England, the areas with the highest rates of adults who are overweight or obese are Thurrock, Stockton-on-Tees, Tamworth and Hartlepool, all above 74%. With the exception of Tamworth, in these areas regular walking and cycling rates are below average.

Promoting and investing in active travel (cycling and walking) opportunities can help to reduce rates of people who are overweight and obese and should be part of a broader effort to make local environments less likely to cause obesity (obesogenic).

  • Adults (aged 18 years and older) are defined as overweight (including obese) if their self-reported body mass index is greater than or equal to 25kg/m2.
  • Walking refers to any continuous walking of more than 10 minutes, irrespective of purpose; and cycling refers to any cycling, irrespective of length or purpose.

Source: Health Foundation analysis of Department for Transport, Walking and cycling statistics, 2020/21; Public Health England, Percentage of adults (aged 18 plus) classified as overweight or obese, 2020/21.

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