Regular physical activity reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, obesity, dementia, mental health problems and musculoskeletal conditions. It is recommended that adults should do at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more every week. Children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day.
A local survey conducted in 2016 (Adult Health and Lifestyle Survey) found that whilst 73% of Gateshead residents said they were in good health, only 64% thought they were fit. Some residents were significantly less likely to feel fit, including those who smoked (37% thought they were fit), those not getting the recommended level of exercise of 150+ minutes per week (40%) and those who had excess weight (51%).
The perception of fitness differs by gender, with 41% of women saying they feel unfit, compared with 31% of men. Interestingly, there is an indication (though not definitive) that men may feel less fit as they grow older, whereas women are the opposite and actually feel fitter the older they get. This may reflect that the data indicates more women get the recommended level of exercise (150+ minutes per week) the older they get, whereas less men do (although again this is indicative only).
In the national 2016/17 Active Lives Survey 63.2% of adults (aged 19+) in Gateshead reported undertaking 150 minutes of physical activity per week (active adults). The proportion is similar to the England average which is 66.0%. [Chart - Active adults]. It will be important to monitor this indicator in future years to see if a consistent trend emerges. National data shows a significant variation in the proportion of active adults with those in the most deprived areas much less likely to be active than those in the least deprived areas.
In 2014, 72% of primary school children aged 8-11 years reported that they had exercised three times or more in the last week and the exercise was enough to make them breathe harder.
In the 2014/15 'What About YOUth' (WAY) survey, 13.4% of 15 year olds in Gateshead reported that they had been physically active for at least one hour per day seven days a week. This is similar to the England average of 13.9% [Chart - 15 year olds physically active for at least an hour per day seven days a week].
In Gateshead in 2011, only 0.9% of adult working age residents travelled to work by bicycle and 5.7% on foot. This compares with 1.9% in England who cycled, and 6.9% who walked.
In 2014, 90% of primary school children had a bike.
Nonetheless, cycling both for travel and recreation appear to be increasing in Gateshead: cycling to work increased by 61% in Gateshead between 2001 and 2011, and cycling counts at monitoring points in Gateshead more than doubled in frequency between 2008 and 2012, and have been increasing since 2004.
Commuting by public transport is also associated with a healthier weight than travel by car. Whilst a greater proportion of working age adults travel to work by public transport in Gateshead than in England, public transport use in Tyne and Wear has been reducing since a peak in 2009/10.
 Department of Health. Start Active, Stay Active - A report on physical activity for health from the four home countries' Chief Medical Officers, 11th July 2011
 Health and Lifestyle Survey, Gateshead Council, 2016
 Active Lives Survey, Sport England, 2016/17 (PHOF website)
 Gateshead Schools Health Related Behaviour Survey, 2014
 What About YOUth? Survey, HSCIC, 2014/15 (Young People website)
 Census 2011, Method of Travel to Work in England and Wales, ONS, 2011
 Gateshead Council UDP Annual Monitoring Report, 2012/13 (Gateshead Council website)
 TADU, Gateshead Council, 2004-2013
 Flint E, et al. Associations between active commuting, body fat, and body mass index: population based, cross sectional study in the United Kingdom. BMJ 2014;349:g4887, 2014
 Public transport use in Tyne and Wear, Nexus, 2007/08 to 2012/13