Third of Britons believe increased school PE and clearer food labelling will be most effective at tackling obesity crisis

0001hrs, 9 January 2016. A third (34 percent) of Britons believe increasing the mandatory amount of time children spend on physical education in schools would be one of the most effective ways of helping to reduce levels of obesity, with a similar number (33 percent) favouring clearer labelling of food and drink products as the most effective way to tackle the UK obesity epidemic, according to a new ComRes poll commissioned for the annual JanUary healthy living campaign.

Schools in England are required to include PE within their curriculums, but are allowed to set the amount of time they spend on physical activity after a government target of two hours a week was scrapped in 2012.

The poll also found that, when asked to choose between a range of potential health measures, nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) thought a ban on advertising ‘junk’ foods before a watershed of 9pm would work best, with a similar percentage (24 percent) believing loyalty-style promotions by supermarkets would encourage the purchase of healthy products and be the most effective way of reducing obesity levels.

One in five Britons (21 percent) chose a ban on ‘Buy one get one free’ (Bogof) promotions, with the same percentage of respondents also believing reduced portion sizes and taxes on products high in salt, sugar and fat would be most effective in reducing obesity. 

Nineteen percent of Britons called for more information from government on healthy food and drink. The poll was conducted to coincide with the launch of the annual JanUary campaign (formerly National Obesity Awareness Week), led by the National Obesity Forum and Heart Research UK, and calling on Britons to commit to healthy and sustainable New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

Barbara Dinsdale, Head of Lifestyle at Heart Research UK, said:

“The scale of the obesity problem in the UK is well known, and puts a strain on public services, particularly the NHS.

“Ultimately, good habits and good choices are needed to address what is an epidemic. That needs to start in school, as well as in the home, and it’s essential children are encouraged to be physically active. But Britons also want to see clear information and to be incentivised to make healthy choices, whether through in-store promotions, smaller portions or better product labelling. There is an opportunity for the food and drink industry to build on the work it’s doing and to help customers make these healthy choices.”

Tam Fry, Spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said:

“There is no quick fix to a problem that’s grown over more than 20 years. We need to encourage children to be more physically active and less wedded to computers, mobiles and television. And we need to ensure children and adults are encouraged to pick healthy foods, and discouraged from those high in sugar, salt and fats.”

Polling information

Q. Which of the following, if any, do you think would be the most effective in helping to improve people’s health and reduce levels of obesity? Please select your top three.



Increasing the mandatory amount of time pupils should spend in PE (physical education) lessons in schools


Clearer food labelling of food and drink products


Loyalty style promotions from supermarkets to reward buying healthier products


Restrictions on advertising ‘junk’ foods before 9pm


Food and drink companies reducing portion sizes


Banning “buy one get one free” promotions in supermarkets on unhealthy products


Extending the principle of the “Soft Drinks Industry Levy” and putting extra taxes on food products high in sugar, salt or fat to increase their cost


More information from government on healthy food and drink


None of these


Don’t know



Base: GB adults (n=2,031)

ComRes interviewed 2,031 GB adults online between 21 and 22 December 2016. Data was weighted to be demographically representative of all GB adults. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.

For further information about the JanUary campaign, or comment from Heart Research UK, please contact Chris Rogers on 020 7793 2536 / 07720 054189.

Tam Fry from the National Obesity Forum is also available for interview and contactable on 07850 138822.