The Big Dividends Of Physical Activity

2020-09-05 Reading Time: 3 minutes
Physical activity - research indicates that investing in sport and providing opportunities for people to workout produces enormous benefits to society, including economic gains
Uphill struggle of a campaign - Photo courtesy of Patrick B. Kraemer

Every £1 spent on community sport and physical activity generates nearly £4 for the English economy and society, a new report by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University, states.

The research comes at a time when swimming is facing huge challenges as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as highlighted by John Atkinson in a series of Q&As just underway at Swimming Canada.

The findings of research commissioned by Sport England point to why investing in physical activity reaps rewards in the lives of individuals, families and society at large, physical and mental health in focus.

The Sheffield Hallam University unit was asked to calculate the social impact and the economic importance of sport and physical activity in England.

Sport England concluded that that the research shows “that investment [in sport] creates a return across health and social care, improves wellbeing, builds stronger communities and develops skills in the economy”. The findings showed, it added, that:

” … investing in community sport and physical activity plays an important role in boosting the economy and provides the opportunity to help level up inequalities within communities, and build a healthier, happier and more prosperous society generating £3.91 in value for every £1 spent.”

Community sport and physical activity, the findings suggest, make an annual contribution of £85.5 billion to the economy in England (2018) “through social and economic benefits”.

Sport England noted that regular physical activity and the required access to facilities produced a social-value dividend ” … including physical and mental health, wellbeing, individual and community development” of “more than £72 billion, provided via routes such as a healthier population, consumer expenditure, greater work productivity, improved education attainment, reduced crime and stronger communities.”

The research also suggested that sport:

  • generates more than £13bn in economic value through the sports-related goods and services we consume as a nation.
  • generates jobs: economic value includes more than 285,000 jobs that employ people within the community sport and physical activity sector

Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of Sport England, said the report proves that investing in being active helps make us all happier and healthier, can create opportunities and brings communities together. He added:

“Today more than ever community sport and activity has a vital role to play in offering a solution to some of society’s biggest problems like our health, both mental and physical, helping to make life fairer for everyone, and growing and improving our economy.

“Everyone has a responsibility to keep our nation active. This new research provides evidence that can help local authorities, businesses and the voluntary sector to understand the value of promoting activity, especially as it will play an important part in helping the national to recover from the challenges 2020 has brought.”

In a statement summarising the research findings, Sport England states that “£42bn worth of value was created from improved life satisfaction for 24 million participants and 3.9 million volunteers through their involvement in sport and physical activity.”

The findings also show that physical activity plays an important role in preventing a number of serious physical and mental health conditions, with the research showing this provided the economy with £9.5bn in value.

Of this amount, £5.2bn was in healthcare savings, while £1.7bn was in social care savings, says Sport England.

More than £3.6bn worth of savings were generated by the prevention of 900,000 cases of diabetes, while a further £3.5bn of value was generated in avoided dementia cases and the related care, the research indicates.

A total of £450 million was saved by preventing 30 million additional GP visits, while a further £20bn in value came from stronger and safer communities, including:

  • 10,000 fewer crime incidents
  • The replacement value of work done by sports volunteers (£5.7bn)
  • Improved levels of social trust, belonging and community engagement (£14.2bn).
  • The research gives a clear picture of how community sport and physical activity significantly contributes positively to all five outcomes identified in the government’s sports strategy, Sporting Future.

Hollingsworth said:

“Today more than ever community sport and activity has a vital role to play in offering a solution to some of society’s biggest problems.”

The Physical Activity Report

An explanation from Sport England:

There are two parts to the research, the social impact and the economic importance.

Social impact was determined by using a Social Return on Investment (SROI) framework, which assessed the value of participating and volunteering in sport but excluded watching sport.

The economic importance was evaluated by adopting the National Income Accounting framework and provided a snapshot of the role and significance of sport in England in 2017/18.

Building on previous work, this new research expands and further demonstrates the enormous social and economic value of community sport and physical activity.

The research comes from a national overarching model and organisations can use it to better understand the impact that being active can have on the lives of individuals and communities, the delivery of public services and our economy.

Organisations may also want to build their own modelling of economic value, for specific local areas, activities or audiences.

To help, we’ve established a set of principles that will help all partners develop a consistent approach. The aim is to enable the sector to make the most compelling case for sport and physical activity for the benefit of everyone.

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