Select Committee on Health Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


The Central Council of Physical Recreation (PH 85)


  Sport and physical recreation has a key role to play in the delivery of public health policy. Regular physical activity improves general physical and mental health, and is a preventative measure against illnesses such as heart disease and osteoporosis. In particular the CCPR recommends:

    —  The appointment of a joint special advisor between DCMS and DOH to ensure better policy co-ordination.

    —  Government support for the widest range of sport and recreational activities.

    —  Recognition of the role of sport and recreation in delivering community health initiatives.

    —  A minimum of two hours quality physical education within the curriculum per week.

    —  Adequate provision of swimming tuition in schools to prevent accidental deaths from drowning.

    —  Increased opportunities for physical activity in sports clubs and local authority leisure centres for people over 60.


  1.1  The Central Council of Physical Recreation (CCPR), as the national association for the governing bodies of sport and recreation, is pleased to respond to the Health Select Committee Inquiry into Public Health.

  1.2  The Government's Public Health White Paper, Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, published in July 1999 signalled an intent to introduce a stronger preventative element into the delivery of healthcare. The White Paper argued that in future the NHS "will be geared not just to the treatment of illness but to the prevention and early detection of ill-health".

  1.3  Sport and recreation has an important role to play in the delivery of any public health agenda. Whether it is playing for your local sports club or attending a dance class, regular physical activity improves general physical and mental health, and is a preventative measure against diseases such as coronary heart disease and osteoporosis. People who do not meet the Government's recommended guidelines on adult physical activity—30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week—are twice as likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and three times more likely to have a stroke.


  2.1  Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation, sets a target of reducing deaths from heart disease by 40 per cent by 2010, and mental health problems by 20 per cent. It is of concern that the majority of adults do not meet minimum recommended guidelines on physical activity.

  2.2  The effect that unhealthy lifestyles could have on children's health was highlighted in a speech by Public Health Minister Yvette Cooper MP on 19 October 2000.

    "Although for most people health is improving, health experts now have serious concerns that a lack of exercise and poor diets among children and young people could have damaging health effects in later life. In fact, if current trends continue, there is a risk that the increase in life expectancy that we have seen in recent years could be lost for some of the next generation".

  2.3  The detailed results of the Government's 1998 Annual Health Survey shows that only 25 per cent of women and 37 per cent of men met the minimum recommended guidelines on exercise. In particular the evidence illustrates a decline in physical activity with age, showing that measures are needed to promote physical activity in later life. (For full details see Appendix 1). Worryingly the same survey found that 28 per cent of both adult men and women suffered from a form of cardiovascular disease.

  2.4  Figures from the 1996 General Household Survey show a decline in physical activity rates among the lower social bands. This mirrors evidence on health inequalities, with for example the death rate from coronary heart disease three times higher among unskilled men than professionals. Lack of exercise is one of a number of contributory factors to this trend. (For full details see Appendix 1).

  2.5  The British Heart Foundation report published in June 2000, Couch Kids—the Growing Epidemic, warned that our youngsters are becoming a generation of "couch potatoes". 33 per cent of boys and 38 per cent of girls aged two-seven do not meet current recommended guidelines on physical activity for youngsters of an hours moderate exercise per day. At the same time children are spending more of their spare time involved in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing computer games. Children aged two-seven spent an average of ten hours per week in sedentary activity, rising to 17 hours for 13-15 year olds. Levels of obesity are also rising, with 20 per cent of four year olds overweight and eight per cent obese.


  3.1  Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation provides for a three way partnership between Government, communities and individuals. We believe that sport and recreation can play an integral part in delivering this approach at all levels.

  3.2  In order to ensure better co-ordination between sport and health, we propose a new joint special advisor between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department of Health. Both the Public Health White Paper and the Government's Sports Strategy, A Sporting Future for All, expressed a desire to see increased participation in sport and recreational activities. With such a clear policy overlap, it is logical for the two agendas to work more closely together.

  On this issue, the CCPR was greatly encouraged to see the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Public Health Minister appear jointly at a recent conference on sport and health hosted by Sport England and the Health Development Agency.

  3.3  A successful parallel has been the appointment of a joint special advisor between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Education and Employment. This has contributed to improved relations between sport and education, and mutually beneficial policy developments such as the announcement of £750 million from the New Opportunities Fund for School Sport.

  3.4  The CCPR welcomed the allocation of £300 million of New Opportunities Fund (NOF) money to fund the establishment of Healthy Living Centres, which among other things will provide advice on exercise. Further support from NOF to promote health related exercise and a healthy active retirement would be welcomed.

  3.5  The Government's Sports Strategy emphasised measures to increase sporting participation. The membership of the CCPR would be interested to receive the views of the Committee as to whether the correct balance has been struck between competitive sporting activity and more recreational endeavours.


  4.1  The Public Health White Paper sets out a series of initiatives to build public health policies into local healthcare delivery and states:

    "Communities working in partnership through local organisations are the best means of delivering better information, better services and better community-wide programmes which will lead to better health".

  4.2  Sport and recreation, particularly local voluntary clubs, can play a key partnership role in helping to deliver local healthcare initiatives. Under the strategy each local authority is required to draw up a Health Improvement Programme, which is to include plans for meeting local and national public health targets. These programmes should give recognition to the role of sport and recreation.

  4.3  Voluntary sport's clubs are non-profit distributing, and funded from membership fees. They provide the focal point for organised sport, bringing people together in communal activities. At a time when a quarter of the UK population now lives in single person households, sport in becoming an important way to bring communities together. Research from Robert Putnam, a Harvard Professor, strongly suggests the happiness is dependent upon social contact and highlights the decline of traditional bowling leagues as a source of social unease in America.

  However many clubs are under financial strain since they are classed as businesses for tax purposes. CCPR members support Andrew Reed MP's Private Members Bill which proposed that Community and Amateur Sports Clubs be given tax breaks and rate relief on a par with charities.

  4.4  Sport and recreation can play a particular role in delivering programmes in Health Action Zones, where the focus is on tackling health inequalities. For example the Merseyside Health Action Zone has recently launched a 'Fit for Life Scheme' with the St Helens Rugby League Club. Under the scheme year 10 pupils attend sessions at the club which help them with fitness training and dietary advice.

  4.5  The 'Exercise on Prescription' programme, whereby patients can be subscribed courses of exercise by their GP as part of their treatment is supported, and members are pleased that the Government has shown a desire to expand the scheme. Sport and recreation is well placed to help deliver the scheme effectively. For example, through exercise sessions at the local sports centre or through recreational sessions organised by the local sports club. People are more likely to continue exercising beyond the prescribed period if they are in a communal setting as opposed to going alone to a sports centre. A successful example is the City of Sunderland where there is a partnership between the local authority and the local swimming club in delivering exercise on prescription. This model of good practice has shown a successful trend in sustained participation. A survey of participants found that 71 per cent continued exercising after the completion of their course.


  5.1  Measures are needed to increase the amount of regular physical activity undertaken by the population. The Government should allocate resources for this purpose and monitor the results. In particular the Government should provide adequate funding for a wide range of sport and recreational activities, to provide individuals with the widest possible range of opportunities possible. There is a particular role for recreation, for example keep fit, dance classes and rambling, in providing easily accessible exercise.

  5.2  To help stem the decline in child activity rates, it is of central importance that youngsters receive two hours quality physical education within the school curriculum per week. A 1999 Sport England Survey found that only 33 per cent of school children received that amount. Furthermore a 1997 survey in the Journal of Physical Education found that school PE was the only form of physical activity for 30 per cent of 11-16 year olds. We welcome measures in the Government Sport's Strategy aimed at increasing sporting participation in schools, but are concerned at the focus on after-school sport. Such measures target pupils who are already enthusiastic about sport, as opposed to those who are most inactive.

  The aims of the Healthy Schools Initiative are endorsed, and members stress the contribution physical activity makes to the scheme.

  5.3  The evidence on physical activity rates shows that female activity rates are substantially lower. The differential begins at school with girls less enthusiastic about physical education. Measures to encourage girls to participate more in school PE, through the provision of aerobic body orientated sports, and a relaxation of dress codes are welcomed.

  5.4  To tackle declining activity rates among the elderly, the Government should take steps to encourage increased opportunities for physical activity for people over 60. Furthermore there should be easy access to affordable life long physical activity courses for the retired to promote an active retirement.

  5.5  In order to reduce the number of accidental deaths caused by drowning, the Public Health White Paper proposes more teaching of swimming. A joint survey published by the CCPR and the Times Educational Supplement in July 2000 found that of the schools responding, Key Stage 1 pupils (age five-seven) received only 11 minutes of swimming per week, while Key Stage 2 pupils (age 7-11) received 25 minutes. On average 15 per cent of pupils in each school surveyed failed to meet the National Curriculum target of swimming 25 metres unaided by age 11. Furthermore an OFSTED Report on Swimming in Key Stage 2, published in November 2000, found that over half of schools had reduced the time allocated to swimming over the previous three years. This was due to increase costs and timetable pressures.

  The CCPR feels that all children should have access to curriculum swimming tuition whilst at school. Furthermore the funding of school swimming should be addressed. Swimming tuition should not be subsidised through parental contributions.

  5.6  In order to prevent accidental deaths through participation in outdoor adventurous activities, governing bodies of sport believe that safety standards for individual activities must be set by the relevant governing body.


  6.1  The CCPR is pleased to respond to the Health Select Committee inquiry into public health. Sport and recreation has a key role to play in the public health agenda. Participation in sport and recreation is a recognised preventative measure against coronary heart disease and poor mental health. At a time when the NHS is under increasing financial pressures, a long term investment in preventative health measures is needed.

  6.2  Measures are needed to encourage greater sporting participation amongst individuals, particularly through the provision of a minimum of two hours quality physical education within the curriculum per week.

  6.3  There should be more joined up thinking on sport and health at a national level through the appointment of a joint special advisor. Recognition should be given to the role that sport and recreation can play as a partner in delivering community health initiatives.



  (a)  Figures from 1998 Annual Health Survey showing proportion of age groups, across genders, meeting recommend Government guidelines on adult physical activity:
Age groupPercentage of women meeting recommended exercise guidelines Percentage of men meeting recommended exercise guidelines

  (b)  Figures from the 1996 General Household Survey showing activity rates across different social groupings:
Socio economic classPercentage regularly taking part in physical activity [86]
Employers and Managers69
Intermediate and Junior Non-Manual66
Skilled Manual and Own Account Non-Professional 63
Semi-Skilled Manual and Personal Service 55
Unskilled Manual45

86   Defined as an individual having participated in at least one sporting activity during the previous four weeks. Back

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