Physical activity

The benefits of physical activity are well documented. Physical activity can help reduce the risk of non-communicable or chronic diseases that negatively affect healthy life expectancy, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some cancers. It can also support mental health, through improving mood and reducing stress, while improving energy levels and sleep quality.

The health benefits of being physically active include:

Key findings


Estimates of physical activity levels come from national and local surveys, with the latest nationally published figures from the Sport England Active Lives Survey (2018/19). The Chief Medical Officer’s report (2011) recommends that adults aged 19-64 years undertake 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week; examples of moderate activity include brisk walking, water aerobics, doubles tennis, riding a bike (on level ground or with a few hills), hiking, pushing a lawn mower or skateboarding. 

  • The survey estimates that two-thirds (66.2%) of the adult population (19+ years) in Lancashire-12 are physically active (meeting the national guidelines of a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week), in line with the England proportion (67.2%).
  • Burnley (58.4%), South Ribble (58.5%) and Preston (62.3%) are estimated to have a significantly lower proportion of physically active adults compared to England, while only Ribble Valley (77.0%) has a significantly higher proportion. Blackburn with Darwen (61.6%) is significantly lower than England and Blackpool (63.3%) is similar.
  • Over a fifth (23.0%) of the adult population in Lancashire-12 is physically inactive (adults doing less than 30 minutes of moderate activity per week), significantly worse than England (21.4%). When applied to the latest 2019 mid-year population estimates (Office for National Statistics) this equates to just over 222,800 adults. 
  • Burnley (29.5%), Preston (26.5%) and Hyndburn (26.4%) have a significantly higher proportion of inactive adults compared to England. Blackpool (36.8%) and Blackburn with Darwen (25.8%) are also significantly higher than England. 
  • Ribble Valley (16.0% is the only district to have a significantly lower proportion of inactive adults compared to England.
  • Recently released data show that in Lancashire 17.0% of adults walk for travel at least three days per week (England 22.7%), while 1.4% of adults cycle for travel at least three days per week (England 3.1%). Both Lancashire's proportions are significantly lower than England (2018/19).


It is recommended that children aged 5-18 should be engaging in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity every day.

  • Figures from the 2014/15 What about YOUth survey indicate that just 15.0% of young people aged 15 in Lancashire-12 met the guidelines, similar to the England proportion (13.9%).
  • Only 14.1% of children in Blackpool and 12.4% in Blackburn with Darwen are meeting the recommended levels of physical activity.
  • Both nationally and locally more work is needed to get children and young people active.

For county and unitary data and further information please see below.

*NHS, 2017

For district data and full functionality of the Public Health England fingertips tool please visit the web page

Page updated January 2021