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Sunday 29 May 2016

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As new sports project kicks off, research reveals that two-thirds of us get too little exercise


Published 11/12/2013

Football is the most popular form of exercise by men in Northern Ireland
Football is the most popular form of exercise by men in Northern Ireland

Almost two-thirds of adults in Northern Ireland are not getting enough exercise, according to research carried out by a senior Sport Northern Ireland official.

The statistics emerged during a study carried out by Dr Paul Donnelly, the policy, planning and research manager at Sport Northern Ireland.

His research showed that 34.5% of the adult population of Northern Ireland meet the recommended level of physical activity – moderate activities for at least 30 minutes five days per week.

But it also found only 6% of the adult population of Northern Ireland met a five-point criteria of being:

  • Sufficiently active
  • Not smoking
  • Drinking alcohol within recommended limits
  • Eating five portions of fruit and vegetables per day
  • Having a health body mass index

Dr Donnelly based his Sheffield Hallan University PhD on a national survey of 4,653 adults drawn from all over the province.

Sport was found to be a minority contributor to total activity levels with most activity taking place during work hours for men and in the house for women. People taking part in sport tended to be healthier and happier than those who did not.

In the paper, Dr Donnelly launched a search for so-called "model citizens of Northern Ireland".

Research published in August showed that Northern Ireland children were among the least active in the UK.

The University College London study found that only 43% of seven-year-olds had the recommended one hour of exercise each day

Childhood obesity in Northern Ireland has increased from 27% in 2010-2011 to 31% in 2011-2012, and according to research is likely to rise further in the coming years.

Dr Donnelly said: "The findings from my research present considerable challenges for those tasked with policy development in Northern Ireland."


To maintain good health you need a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for at least five days a week.

The words 'moderate' and 'vigorous' describe the intensity of exercise.

Whether an exercise or physical activity is moderate or vigorous depends on how hard you're working to carry it out and how much energy you're using. Moderate intensity exercise is where you raise your heart rate and break into sweat.

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