Introducing the Physical Activity Wellness Index for England

Physical Activity Wellness Index


Quick look

  • CIMSPA has considered four different data points in the study to highlight places with the highest overall physical activity wellness. These include: the number of fitness professionals, the number of facilities, the percentage of adults taking part in regular physical activity and an anxiety index
  • Cambridge, Milton Keynes and York take the top three places for physical activity wellness in 2021
  • The study comes after the launch of ReTrain to Retain, which offers support and training to thousands working in sport and physical activity.

We all know that regularly taking part in sport and physical activity is good for our physical and mental health, but we also know that opportunities and levels of activity aren’t evenly spread around the country. We’ve conducted this study to understand which places in England have the best combination of sport and physical activity professionals, facilities, levels of activity and mental wellbeing.

We’ve crunched the numbers to come up with the CIMSPA Physical Activity Wellness Index, which you can explore using our interactive tools below. Click on the icons to discover the top 20 places in each category

The data reveals that Cambridge has the highest overall Index score in England, featuring in the top 10 for three of the four factors. The city has the 2nd highest number of sports facilities per capita and the 4th highest amount of sport and physical activity professionals. This helps Cambridge residents to have the 4th highest physical activity rates in England.

Milton Keynes has the 2nd highest Index score in England, ranked number 1 for sporting facilities per capita, with the 2nd highest number of sport and physical activity professionals and the 11th highest levels of activity.

Completing our top 3 is York, with the 3rd highest number of fitness facilities per capita and the 10th highest number of professionals. York also has the 5th most active adult population in England, with 71% of the city in regular physical activity.

But how does your city compare to these physical activity leaders? Input your city below to compare.

Overall, the data reveals a positive correlation between the number of sport and physical activity professionals and the levels of activity within an individual town or city. Of the top 10 places with the highest per-capita number of professionals, six also rank in the top 10 for levels of activity (Newcastle upon Tyne, Leeds, Cambridge, Brighton, Oxford and York).

As our CEO, Tara Dillon, says,

“As we recover from the impact of Covid-19, this is a vital time to invest not only in facilities but also in the professional workforce, in a targeted way. Through Sport England research we also know that people in lower socio-economic groups are less likely to be active. This is why we have just launched ReTrain to Retain to provide training, funding and support for sport and physical professionals, with a particular focus on those working in more deprived areas."

Thousands of instructors, coaches and fitness professionals are already accessing on-demand support and resources through the Retrain to Retain platform, helping them to stay in, or return to, the sector.

The Sport England and National Lottery funded project is being delivered by CIMSPA, UK Coaching and EMD UK and offers fitness professionals using the platform access to digital learning webinars and job matching services, along with access to the CIMSPA Digital Marketing Hub.

There’s still time to apply - for more information on the support available for sport and physical activity professionals and volunteers through ReTrain to Retain.

Data methodology

To put together the tool CIMSPA collected the data from a variety of data sources:

  • Number of Fitness Professionals - this number was collected from EMSI’s Occupational report looking at the total occupation numbers broken down by city from 2020 to 2021
  • Number of Sports Facilities - Collected using the GoogleMaps API by looking at numbers of gyms, Leisure centers, Boxing Gyms, Swimming pools, etc across the UK
  • Physical Activity Index - this data was taken from the Fingertips physical activity data
  • Anxiety Index - taken from the ONS Personal Wellbeing data collected between April 2020 and March 2021.

Once the data was collected and normalised, a scoring metric was put together to rank the cities in the data.

Incorporated by Royal Charter Charity registration number 1144545

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