Helping people to get more active

Helping people to get more active

Three years ago, in 2019, the Churchill Fellowship announced a new partnership with the trade body for the physical activity sector, ukactive, to award Fellowships that explore ways to get people more active. This was a programme of significant personal interest and pride for me, bringing together my work as Chair of ukactive and as a member of the Churchill Fellowship’s Advisory Council.

Zoomed in on a group of runner's feet
"Research holds the key to the solutions needed to turn the tide on inactivity." - Tanni Grey-Thompson, Fellow

Since then, the world has changed in an unimaginable way as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we begin to come to terms with the ongoing challenges, and as the UK returns to some semblance of normality, I am enormously pleased that ukactive will once again work with the Churchill Fellowship to promote this programme of Fellowships, which reopens this autumn.

Physical inactivity is prevalent across many generations of people around the world. Numerous global studies have shown that we are not doing enough physical activity to keep ourselves healthy – a situation made worse by the pandemic. In particular, health inequalities have grown over the past two years, meaning that we have more work to do to ensure equal access to opportunities to lead active, healthy and happy lives.

With physical inactivity being a contributing factor to a long list of long-term health conditions, this issue is significantly increasing demands on our health services and social care, as well as on the lives of individuals.

This has inspired the Churchill Fellowship to fund Fellows to explore new ways to encourage people to take up and enjoy physical activity in order to benefit their physical and mental health and wellbeing. This programme of Churchill Fellowships will be devoted to ‘making moves for healthy lives’. It’s a hugely exciting and positive time to be involved in this work – research holds the key to the solutions needed to turn the tide on inactivity.

The Physical activity for healthier lives Fellowships will open again for applications this autumn. Everyone who is aged 18 or over and a UK citizen can apply for a Churchill Fellowship, regardless of age, background or qualifications. Anyone who has a passion to help people to take up physical activity in order to benefit their health and wellbeing is encouraged to apply.

The Fellowship particularly welcomes applications that explore using sport, exercise or physical activity as a vehicle to improve the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities, whether in community-led programmes, for children and young people, for workplace wellbeing or for active ageing.

Here’s an example of what one Fellow from that first year of this programme has achieved. Sarah Dewhurst became a Fellow in 2019. She is the lead for living with and beyond cancer care at a tertiary cancer hospital in London. Her Fellowship led her to investigate the role of physical activity in improving outcomes for cancer patients in Australia, New Zealand and Switzerland. Upon her return from her overseas research, Sarah set up a professional network for UK physiotherapists, which now has more than 100 members. The group are interested in developing expertise at providing exercise services for people living with cancer.

Sarah has said that the Fellowship has had a huge impact on her work. It has given her the opportunity to meet fellow physiotherapists who feel equally strongly about exercise oncology and to work together to promote change in practice.

Throughout my sporting and political career, I have had the privilege of physical activity taking me around the world and allowing me to meet so many people from different countries. If, like me, you have a burning passion for physical activity, driving social change, and a dash of international adventure, think about applying for a Fellowship.

Our Physical activity for healthier lives Fellowship programme reopened for applications on 12 September 2023.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is a member of our Advisory Council, a Churchill Fellow, a Paralympic athlete and a cross-bench peer in the House of Lords. She competed in five Paralympic Games, winning 11 gold medals, 4 silver and 1 bronze. In 2005 she was awarded a DBE for services to sport. She has been a board member of the London Marathon, the Sportsaid Foundation, and Transport for London. She is currently a board member of the BBC, the London Legacy Development Corporation and is chair of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, and of our partners ukactive.


The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.


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