One million people more active than four years ago

Sport England has revealed that one million more people are physically active than they were in 2015.

The Active Lives Adult Survey, based on data gathered from 180,000 respondents aged 16 and over in the 12 months from May 2018 to May 2019, shows that 1,015,700 more people are active compared to when the survey started in 2015.

This takes the total number of active people – those doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week – up to 28.6 million. The number of inactive people – doing fewer than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity per week – is down to 11.2 million, a decrease of 131,700 since 2015 and the lowest figure ever recorded by the survey.

The improved results have been pit down to a rise in activity by women and older adults (aged 55+), with both groups benefitting from campaigns such at This Girl Can Open, a £10 million fund for projects that support people aged over 55 to get active and by supporting new opportunities for running such as a £3 million investment into parkrun.

The new Active Lives Adult Survey results also shows evidence of the positive impacts of activity on mental health. When asked to rate their mental health on a scale of 0-10, active people reported feeling: more satisfied with their lives; happier; more likely to feel the things they do in life are worthwhile; and less anxious.

Tim Hollingsworth, chief executive of the charity, said:  “It’s really excellent news that a record number of people are now active every week and that we’re also seeing a significant decrease in the amount of inactive people. It shows us that efforts to help more people get active are starting to make a real difference, particularly for older adults, women and those with a disability or long-term health condition.

“But we can’t be complacent. Within the overall positive picture of these figures is a sobering reality – if you are well-off you are far more likely to be active than if you’re on a low income or less affluent. While there are complex barriers that stop less well-off people from getting active, this is an unacceptable inequality and one we’re starting to address in the work we are doing across the country – including piloting programmes in 12 local areas to tackle inequality.

“Being active has positive benefits for mental and physical wellbeing, strengthens communities and helps build confidence and resilience. We urge anyone working towards helping people live healthier lives – whether that’s government policy makers or health professionals – to consider physical activity as a vehicle to help drive positive outcomes, so that everyone can benefit.”

Gerald Vernon-Jackson, chair of the Local Government Association’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “These figures show that efforts by councils and Sport England to get people active are working. Councils are creating opportunities for their residents to be active every day and support campaigns like ‘This Girl Can’ and ‘We are Undefeatable’.

“However, it is important that we also ensure our core leisure offer is maintained for all residents who want to increase their activity levels. Many of the facilities run by councils are ageing, particularly swimming pools, and could be updated to better meet the needs of communities and be more energy efficient and cost-effective to run. It is therefore important that the government looks to provide more funding for council-run facilities, in the same way that they have recently made important investments in cultural infrastructure, to ensure that councils can continue to provide excellent facilities and services for their residents.”

Nigel Adams, Minister for Sport and Civil Society, added: “Every single person in this country should have the opportunity to take part in sport and activity. It is not only good for our physical health but it also boosts our mental wellbeing and makes people happier. Sport England is rightly focusing on further increasing participation so that people from all backgrounds can get, and enjoy being active."