Low physical activity is one of the leading causes of ill health in the UK and an important determinant of health inequalities. Little is known about the effectiveness of community-wide interventions to increase physical activity and whether effects differ by demographic groups, including area deprivation and ethnicity.
6 relatively disadvantaged local authority areas in Lancashire, UK, between 2016 and 2021.
We conducted a doubly robust difference-in-differences study using a large nationally representative repeated cross-sectional survey to investigate the impact of Together an Active Future (TAAF), an intervention aiming to reduce physical inactivity through a programme of creative engagement, partnership building, training and communication. The primary outcome was physical inactivity (the percentage of the population engaging in less than 30 min physical activity of at least moderate intensity per week).
While inactivity increased during the pandemic, it increased to a lesser extent in the intervention population. TAAF was associated with 2.63 percentage point lower level of physical inactivity (95% CI 0.80 to 4.45) in the intervention group relative to the control group. Subgroup analysis found no evidence of differences in effect between groups defined by deprivation, ethnicity, disability, gender or age.
The study suggests that a programme of creative engagement, partnership building, training and communication can help reduce physical inactivity, potentially mitigating some of the effect of pandemic restrictions. Further monitoring is required to understand the impact of this intervention outside of the pandemic context.