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Are we more active than we used to be?

Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 4th of February 2014 Hadyn Luke 04/02/2014

Tags: Industry news


Are we more active than we used to be?

Are people more active than we used to be – and which places are more active: London or Leicester, Norwich or Newcastle, Bath or Birmingham? This blog looks at recent trends of sporting activity, how the data is measured and who is playing sport, working with a personal trainer or keeping active in other ways.

Every personal trainer will have their own anecdotal evidence about how their client base is building, what sort of people are joining the gym and what sort of exercise regimes they are following.  However, there are also organisations measuring and analysing this data.

In an earlier blog we looked at the current global trends in health and fitness (2014 worldwide survey of fitness trends). The Active People Survey carried out by Sport England, continuously measures the number of people taking part in sport across the nation. The largest survey of sport and activity carried out in Europe, it makes for interesting – and sometimes unexpected – reading.

What does the data study?

The comparative data stretches back to 2005, with findings published every six months, estimating the number of people taking part in sport. It tracks variations in different regions and analyses this data using a range of demographic factors, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Social class
  • Disability

What data is collected and how?

The key measure is described by Sport England as the “1 x 30” indicator, which the organisation defines as: “the percentage of the adult population participating in sport, at moderate intensity, for at least 30 minutes on at least four days out of the last four weeks”. Strenuous walking and cycling activities are included and lighter intensity exercise for the over 65s, such as yoga, pilates and bowls.

Data is collected through telephone interviews; from July 2013 the age limit was lowered to include 14 and 15 year olds.

Active People Survey 7

The Active People Survey 7 ran from 15 October 2012 to 14 October 2013 and was published in December 2013.

The results included the following:

  • 15.5 million adults over 16 and more than 900,000 14-15 year olds play sport at least once a week
  • More than half (52%) of adults do not play any sport
  • Just over 17% of adults take part in at least three sport sessions a week
  • An increase in disabled people taking part in spor
  • An increase in the number of people from black and minority ethnic groups taking part in sport

Why do some people not take part in sport?

As any personal trainer will know, there are a variety of reasons why people choose not to take part in sport and exercise (see our blog on the Stage of Readiness). These may include income, work or family commitments and health issues.

Although there is no single reason for this choice, according to the survey one of the key inciting factors to playing sport is having experience of sport while growing up (see our blog on Gym instruction for adolescents). 

Another factor is weather, with – not surprisingly – more people taking part in sport in the warmer summer months (see our blog on How to avoid cold weather injuries). There was also a higher than average number of people participating in sporting activities in the late summer of 2012, after the London Olympics was staged in July of that year.

One of the encouraging statistics is that numbers participating in sport are overall on the rise, and are up from when the survey began in 2005.

Which regions are the most active?

London has the highest percentage of people who play sport every week (37.2%) and the lowest percentage is in the West Midlands (33.3%).

The nine regions of England that are included in this study are:

North East 34.7%

Yorkshire & the Humber 36.2%

North West 35.9%

East Midlands 33.9%

West Midlands 33.3%

East 35.1%

London 37.2%

South West 35.7%

South East 36.9% 

The place topping the list of England’s core cities as far as participation in sport is Leeds, with 31.2 % taking part in sport or active recreation at least three times a week. 

A more detailed breakdown of the local picture in each region can be found on the Sport England website (www.sportengland.org).




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