£295million annual saving for NHS in Wales by being active

New research finds that physical activity saves millions for health budgets, while lowering the risk of major illnesses by up to 30%.

The research commissioned by Sport Wales and undertaken by the Sport Industry Research Centre found that in 2016/17 a cost saving of £295.17million was made from adults who participate in sport and exercise at moderate intensity.

The report links the savings to reduced treatment of major illness, general time spent in GP appointments and reduced pressures on front line NHS staff and services.

Findings highlight that those who regularly take part in moderate level physical activity are 30% less likely to suffer from coronary heart disease, stroke, and dementia, 24% less likely to suffer from colon cancer and 21% less likely to suffer from clinical depression.

Findings also indicate that £23.18m was saved during the year from the reduced use of mental health services by active adults in Wales, while £16.66m was saved from a reduction in GP visits.



Reduced risk of developing by

Cost saving

Coronary Heart Disease



Type 2 Diabetes



Breast Cancer



Colon Cancer






Clinical Depression




Sport Wales are now looking to build on the collaborative work already underway between sport, the health and other sectors to increase the benefits and savings for future years.

Dr Rhodri Martin, Wales' first NHS consultant in sport and exercise medicine at Cwm Taf University Health board, comments:

"We have always known that there is a positive correlation between being physically active and better all-round health.  What this report has gone on to highlight is that some of the biggest challenges facing our health services can and clearly are being tackled through sport and physical activity, and that we need to see more of it.

"The evidence is clear, taking part in sport and physical activity at any level will have a positive impact on your physical and mental health, and this, in turn will help to reduce the pressures and burdens on our health service. 

"The report makes a strong case for a greater collaboration between the sport and health sectors.  It highlights the need for physical activity to be used far more as a real alternative to prescribed medication, as a preventative method and as part of a cure."

A number of initiatives currently take place across Wales which see sport and physical activity being prescribed either as a preventative method or as part of a cure to illness.  In addition to the National Exercise Referral Scheme which sees GPs prescribe physical activity, initiatives such as the linkup between Golf Wales and the Stroke Association are seeing great success stories of sport helping people to either overcome or recover from illness.

Last summer, Welsh Government in collaboration with Public Health Wales and Sport Wales announced details of the Healthy and Active Fund which aims to improve physical and mental health among the most sedentary by creating opportunities to become more physically active.  An overwhelming number of applications for delivering such activities was received.

Sport Wales Chief Executive, Sarah Powell added:

"There are some brilliant examples throughout Wales which see sport and health working together to get more people, more active.  These figures show the benefit of sport and physical activity to the health budget, but behind the figures are countless stories of individuals who have been able to improve their health and quality of life by taking part in sport. 

"It's vital that we continue to work together to ensure that there are projects across Wales to support everyone in preventing chronic diseases, and to help people recover effectively from illness. 

"At Sport Wales we are committed to working with partners who share our ambition of an active nation - a joint approach is vital to improve the health and wellbeing of everyone across Wales, and we are excited that through initiatives such as the Healthy and Active Fund we can do more work across sectors in the future."

Dr Anna Bryant, Cardiff Metropolitan University also said:

"This is a very exciting time for the education, health and sport sectors to collaborate and make a difference to the well-being of young people in Wales. The reform of the Curriculum for Wales to include the development of Health and Well-being as an Area of Learning and Experience (AoLE) lends itself well to the findings of this report. 

"The aspiration of this world leading AoLE, is to support the development of all children and young people on their individual health well-being journey.  As a profession, it is vital we ensure that our children and young people have positive and meaningful experiences, to develop their motivation, confidence, physical competence and knowledge and understanding to engage lifelong in physical activity."