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Diet, Activity & Weight - Data

Women in an exercise class

What you told us

Read the Consultation for the Strategic Plan 2022-25 for Sport and Leisure (PDF)

What the data tells us

Diet and Nutrition

The World Health Organisation recommends adults eat at least five varied portions (80g per portion) of fruit and vegetables a day as part of a balanced diet. The figures below are from a national survey involving a modest number of Midlothian residents. The figures are self-reported.

29% of people report that they eat at least 5 portions a day in Midlothian for the period 2016-2019. This proportion has remained relatively stable since 2003 and is higher than the Scottish average (22%).

25% of men and 33% of women eat the required portions in Lothian, compared to Scottish figures of (20% men, 24% women).

Mean daily portions of fruit and vegetables consumed by sex (Scotland)

There has been a fairly stable trend in daily fruit and vegetable consumption for both men and women between 2008 and 2019. Women consumed between 3.2 and 3.5 pieces per day across the period, slightly higher than men, who consumed between 2.9 and 3.2 pieces per day. In 2019 the gap was at its lowest, with women and men consuming on average of 3.3. and 3.2 pieces of fruit and vegetables respectively.

How many portions of fruit and vegetables did you eat yesterday? Midlothian

Out of those surveyed, the highest percentage of respondents ate 4 pieces of fruit and vegetables a day (32%), followed by 3 pieces, with 26%. Only 19% of people surveyed ate the recommended 5 pieces a day.


  • most adults show a good understanding of the key principles of a healthy diet but there is a gap between attitudes and behaviour.
  • 1 in 10 people are worried about the amount of sugar in food. They are also concerned about saturated fat, fat and salt.
  • The barriers most cited to achieving a healthy diet are cost and time.
  • 78% of people agree that we need to make significant changes to how we eat to be healthier.

People living in deprived areas and those on low incomes often consume a less healthy diet. Choices about what people eat and drink are influenced by their food and drink environment. This includes the density of fast-food outlets and drink establishments and how accessible healthy options are.

Covid 19 has impacted on diet and eating habits, nationally people report eating more snacks and treats but fewer takeaways. More people report cooking from scratch and eating together as a family. More people think their diet is better since the Covid-19 outbreak than think it is worse.



Food insecurity

Food insecurity is the inability to acquire or consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.

The 2020 Scottish Health Survey asked three questions around food insecurity in Scotland. This survey was carried out via telephone in August to September 2020.

  • Percentage of people worried about running out of food (last 12 months) due to a lack of money or resources:
    of adults; highest proportion in younger adults aged 16-44 (11%) compared to 2% in the 75+ age group.
    No significant difference observed between men and women.
  • Percentage of people who ate less than they think they should have due to lack of money or other resources
    4% of adults; 7% (16-44yr); 4% (45-64yr); 1% (in both 65-74 and 75+yr)
  • Percentage of people who had run out of food:
    2% of adults; 2-3% of those aged 16-64 compared to 0% of those 65+.

This information was also compared for those who received a shielding letter/text during the Covid-19 lockdown. Results showed no significant variation in food insecurity between those who had been advised to shield and those who had not with 11% and 7% respectively responding they were worried they would run out of food in the last 12 months

Covid-19 increased food insecurity. In Scotland 24% of adults had a reduced income. 5% sought help to afford food from family and/ or friends and 3% from emergency support such as a foodbank. 17% of people were worried about being able to afford food for the next month. Increasing energy bills are also contributing to food insecurity. In December 2020 Midlothian Council set up the Food and Key Essentials Fund, paying grocery vouchers and fuel payments, using Scottish Government funding. In 11 weeks 5,140 applications were processed and 2099 applicants were referred to the 2 Citizens Advice Bureaus (Dalkeith and Penicuik) for further support.

Midlothian Food Bank has been active for 9 years. This is one of several projects providing food to people in crisis locally. The most reported crisis leading to foodbank uses are:

  • Debt (502 visits)
  • benefits delay (250 visits)
  • child holiday meals (249 visits).

50% of food bank usage is by households with children.


Physical Activity and Exercise

Physical activity is measured using the Chief Medical Officers adult physical activity guidelines (per week):

  • Moderate/vigorous physical activity: at least 150 minutes of moderately intensive physical activity or 75 minutes vigorous activity or an equivalent combination of both.
  • Some activity: 60-149 minutes of moderate activity or 30-74 minutes of vigorous activity or an equivalent combination of these.
  • Low activity: 30-59 minutes of moderate activity or 15-29 minutes of vigorous activity or an equivalent combination of these.
  • Very low activity: Less than 30 minutes of moderate activity or less than 15 minutes of vigorous activity or an equivalent combination of these.

96% of adults in Midlothian report being active for at least 30 minutes on most days. This and the figures below from a national survey (involving a modest number of Midlothian residents) are self-reported.

Proportion of adults meeting physical activity recommendations (Lothian)

The majority of adults in both Lothian and Scotland achieved the recommended level of physical activity in 2020, with 72% of adults in Lothian and 65% in Scotland meeting recommendations. However, there were still 15% of adults in Lothian and 21% in Scotland with a very low level of physical activity.


The proportion of adults in in the Lothians reporting very low activity has reduced from 17% in 2017. The proportion for Scotland is unchanged. Walking (88%) and housework, gardening or window cleaning (70%) were the most cited physical activities by respondents. Gym activities (19%), work related activity (16%) and cycling (16%) were the next most popular.

Unfair and avoidable differences do still exist:

  • Adults in the most deprived areas are less likely to meet the physical activity guidelines compared to those in the least deprived.
  • Men are more likely than women to meet the physical activity guidelines.
  • Those aged 16-49 are more likely to meet the guidelines compared to those aged 75 and over.

Covid 19 has impacted on physical activity but the impact is not consistent. Nationally 35% of people say they are exercising more than pre pandemic and 28% say they are exercising less. Those aged between 16 and 44s, those in higher socio-economic groups, those with kids and those working from home or on furlough were doing more indoor activity. Those aged between 16 and 34, ABs & those on furlough were doing more outdoor exercise. Those shielding were doing less.

Opportunities to encourage people to be more physical activity, more often and to reduce inactivity should be supported across all services. This support should be proportionate to need and should take into account the inequalities which exist which make it harder for some people to be active.  Opportunities to make physical activity easier by changes to our environment should be supported.


Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is a complex relationship between individual biology, psychology and activity as well as the role of food production, food consumption, and the built environment.   

For adults, the body mass index (BMI) is a tool which was designed to track the weight of populations. Currently it is used to calculate whether a person is underweight, a healthy weight, overweight or obese for their height.  Adults are classed as overweight if their BMI is 25 to less than 30, obese if their BMI is 30 to less than 40 and morbidly obese if their BMI is 40 or more.

People who are overweight may be at higher risk from illness and diseases which can lead to premature death or reduced quality of life such as Covid-19, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and some forms of cancer.

People who have a low body weight (as a result of either an eating disorder or long-term illness such as COPD) are also at risk of poor health outcomes. Low birth weight is associated with range of poor short- and long-term health outcomes. It can be caused by mothers smoking during pregnancy as well as other medical problems.

Prevalence of overweight (inc obese) adults, 2016 - 2019 

58% of adults in Lothian were overweight or obese in the period between 2016 and 2019. This is lower than the overall prevalence for Scotland, which was 65% during the same period.


Proportion of adults (16+) who are obese (light colour) or overweight (dark colour) (2017)

Breaking down these figures into separate classifications of overweight and obese adults, we can see that in both Lothian and Scotland the prevalence of overweight adults is higher than the prevalence of obese adults. Lothian has a lower prevalence of obese adults than Scotland, with 24% compared with 29%, and a slightly lower prevalence of overweight adults with 34% in Lothian compared with 36% in Scotland.

In Scotland the prevalence of people who are overweight is the same among women and men. Men aged 65-74 years and women aged 45-54 years were more likely to be obese than other age groups. 

Prevalence rates have been persistently high. From 2008 they have stabilised at around 65%. Those living in the most deprived areas have a higher prevalence of obesity compared to those in the least deprived. This is particularly true for women and children. The gap between children is widening, with an increasing proportion of children in the most deprived areas being classed as at risk and a decreasing proportion in the least deprived areas.

Although we don’t have accurate local data for obesity we do know that cases of diabetes linked to obesity have risen significantly. We also know that services in Midlothian have had to invest in the provision of bariatric equipment and housing for people who are morbidly obese. Demand for treatment and support for people with obesity and linked conditions has gone up and will continue to do so unless we take a wide range of actions across the board.

All services across the HSCP should be preparing for an increased number of people who are obese and overweight. A balanced approach to supporting healthy weight which challenges weight bias and stigma is needed. The wider determinants – the range of factors that influence what we eat and how active we are, need to be taken into account and addressed where possible.