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This briefing is based on the Active People Survey and the Active Lives Survey data published by Sport England (See sections 1-11). Section 12 provides information about key trends and data sources for other countries in the UK. EU level comparison is based on the Eurostat estimates and is available in section 13.

More men than women participate in sport

Around 63% of men were active in sport compared to 58% of women, based on the Active Lives Survey data for year ending May 2017.

Women prefer walking for leisure, men general sports

The most popular physical activity among women was walking for leisure (24%) followed by fitness activities (19%) in May 2017. Men were the most active in general sporting activities[1] (29% of men compared to just under 17% of women).

Around 43% of people with disability were active in sport

On average 43% of people with disability participated in sport activities for over 150 minutes a week in year ending May 2017. This was more than 20 percentage points lower than 65% of those with no disability.

Highest participation among highest social classes

Around 70% of individuals in managerial, administrative & professional occupations (NS SEC 1-2) were active in sport in year ending May 2017. In contrast, around 49% of those long term unemployed or never worked (NS SEC 8) were active in sport.

Running, fitness and gym – popular in 2016/17

In year ending May 2017, the most common activity was running (15%) followed by fitness class (14%) and gym (12%), ranked by proportion of population participating at least twice over the last 28 days prior to survey.

South West region was the most active in 2016/17

Participation in sport was highest in South West region (around 63%) and lowest in West Midlands (53%), compared to 61% in England overall. The proportion of people who were fairly active was similar across all regions in England – at around 14%.

UK had the second highest rate of sport workers in the EU

The UK had the second highest rate of 659 sport workers per 100,000 population, compared to other EU countries in 2016. Sweden was the first with 757 and Denmark was third with 569. UK rate in 2016 was twice as high as the EU 28 average of 332.


[1] Sporting activities include: Team Sports; Racket Sports; Water sports; Leisure games and activities; Combat sports, Martial Arts or Target Sports; Winter sports. Please refer to Active Lives Survey Technical Summary p. 7 for more details.

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