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This study aims to explore the relationship between physical activity levels and the self-reported health status of residents living in deprived communities in England. A cross-sectional interview survey was conducted in communities in receipt of funding from the New Deal for Communities (NDC) regeneration programme. A sample of 848 addresses was selected by random sampling from within each of the 39 NDC areas, and one adult from each household was selected for interview. A total of 19 574 residents were interviewed between July and October 2002. The main outcome measures were physical activity level and health status assessed using four self-reported health measures: health in the last 12 months, health change in the last 12 months, long-standing illness or disability and a mental health-related quality-of-life score. There are large regional and demographic variations in respect of NDC residents’ physical activity levels. The areas with the lowest levels of physical activity are mainly located in northern industrial towns. Residents who did little or no physical activity were more than twice as likely to feel that their health was not good (adjusted OR 2.54, 95% CI 2.35–2.75).