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Active Lives 2019: How active is England?

Published in Sports Management 2019 issue 2
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue
How active is England? / © shutterstock/djile
How active is England?/ © shutterstock/djile

Sport England recently published the latest official statistics from the Active Lives Survey, providing a comprehensive snapshot of England’s sport and physical activity habits, based on a sample of almost 180,000 respondents.

The survey results show that activity levels across the country are rising, with nearly half a million more people doing at least 150 minutes of activity a week, compared to 12 months ago. This means 62.6 per cent of the adult population is now active.

Traditional sports, however, remain unchanged in terms of participation, with cycling and football even seeing their numbers decline.

Sports Management takes a look at the key findings.

What a difference a year makes

28.2 million or 62.2% of the adult population are now doing 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week – this is 498,100 more people than the previous year

185,000 fewer people are doing less than 30 minutes a week compared to the previous year

The gender gap between men and women has narrowed by over 90,000

An additional 286,000 women are getting active for 150 minutes or more a week

More older people were active – up to 59% of 55-74 year olds and 35% of those age 75+

133,200 more disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are active, the first increase since the 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games. Gym sessions were the biggest growth factor here

It’s great to see participation rising – especially among women, disabled and older people. But there is still more to do to tackle inequalities PHOTO: Credit: © shutterstock/Monkey Business Images
Slipping through the cracks

Less likely than others to be active are:

People from lower socioeconomic groups (54%)

Black (57%) and South Asian (56%) communities

Those with a disability or long term health condition (42%). This increases sharply as the number of impairments an individual has increases. 51% of those with three or more impairments are inactive

Most popular activities

Walking for leisure and travel is the most popular way to be active, growing to 26.9 million people

Fitness activities, driven by gym sessions, come second only to walking. Yoga and Pilates, in particular, grew in popularity/p>

Adventure activities, such as hill and mountain walking, climbing and orienteering, grew by 455,000 people/p>

Swimming levels have stabilised after a period of decline, with peaks seen in outdoor and open water swimming during the summer heatwave of 2018

Weights sessions have grown in popularity for women/p>

Overall cycling levels have dropped by 98,000 PHOTO: Credit: © shutterstock/Monkey Business Images
Sport isn’t for everyone

Despite large numbers of people doing traditional sports, numbers aren’t growing

Team sports were down by 240,000 people compared to the previous year

Overall cycling levels have dropped by 98,000, with outdoor, road cycling and racing participation down. However indoor bike sessions

saw a spike

Overall football participation has decreased, but women’s football remains stable

14% of adults (6.2m) are volunteering to support sport and physical activity. Many undertake more than one role, with providing transport and coaching the most common volunteer activity. This is 364,400 fewer people volunteering than the previous year

Weights sessions have grown in popularity for women

The fact that traditional sports participation isn’t growing is worrying considering the positive social benefits it can bring PHOTO: Credit: © shutterstock/Flamingo Images
What do the top people say?
Tim Hollingsworth, Chief executive at Sport England
Tim Hollingsworth

It is encouraging and welcome news that almost half a million more people are active and that inactivity levels are improving across the country. Things are moving in the right direction, however, stubborn inequalities remain, which show that sport and physical activity still isn’t appealing to everyone. It isn’t right or fair that people on a low income, women and black and South Asian people are still less likely to be active. We’re working hard to address that across all of our programmes.

We urge all sport and physical activity providers to think about the practical steps they can take to make their sports more welcoming and inclusive to all. People are gravitating towards activities that can fit into their busy lives, that are enjoyable and where ability doesn’t have to matter.

The fact that traditional sports participation isn’t growing is worrying considering the positive social and community benefits they can bring. The nation’s activity habits are changing. The sports sector must ask how our sports can give consumers the convenience they seek and offer activities that are enjoyable, affordable and accessible.

Why are some people inactive?

5.5 million people don’t feel they have the ability to be active

People who are not active say that perceived ability has the biggest impact on how much they do

Active people say enjoyment is their biggest motivation

Mims Davies • Minister for sport and civil society
Mims Davies PHOTO: Credit: © shutterstock/Chris McAndrew : UK Parliament

We should never underestimate the importance of being active. Sport and exercise improves mental and physical health, builds new friendships and teaches fundamental life skills.

Increasing our activity levels is a key priority. It’s great to see participation rising, especially among women, disabled and older people. But there is still much more to do to tackle stubborn inequalities in participation. I want the sector to continue to innovate and make sure that everyone, no matter what background they are from, can get and stay active.

About the Active Lives survey

The Active Lives survey was launched in 2015 and measures activity in its broadest sense. It includes activities such as walking, cycling for travel and dance, rather than just sport alone, to reflect the Government’s strategy, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation.

179,747 people aged 16+ completed the survey between November 2017 and November 2018.

Active Lives is a national survey conducted by Ipsos MORI on behalf of Sport England. It also offers a vast amount of local data which can be used to develop local projects and policies.

To find out more about Active Lives and see the full results in full, go to www.sportengland.org/activelives

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