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Physical activity "should be embraced": Chief Medical Officer

Sir Liam Donaldson, the Chief Medical Officer, today published his 2009 Annual Report, in which he states that the harm caused by inactivity has been ignored for too long and it is now time for action.

Up to 70% of adults in England do not do the recommended minimum amount of physical activity and child fitness is falling by up to 9% every decade.

In his report, On the State of Public Health, England's Chief Medical Officer calls for action to help reverse the nation's trend towards physical inactivity, including recommending that the government undertakes a pilot of fitness assessments for every secondary school pupil.

Sir Liam is calling for a major change to get the population active, whatever their age.He said: "Inactivity pervades the country. It affects more people in England than the combined total of those who smoke, misuse alcohol or are obese.

"Being physically active is crucial to good health. If a medication existed that had a similar effect on preventing disease, it would be hailed as a miracle cure.

"Studies indicate that approximately 61% of men and 71% of women over the age of 16 years failed to meet the minimum adult recommendation for physical activity. Inactivity increases the risk of more than six chronic diseases.

"This is of grave concern. Improving physical fitness in children helps build a lifelong habit of participation in physical activity. We must get our children moving to improve their future health."