The number of people taking part in sport has reached the same level as the post-London 2012 Olympics boom – with a rise in female participants and an increase in gym users.
Sport England’s Active People Survey revealed that a 340,000 year-on-year boost in participation has lifted the number of people aged 16+ taking part in sport for at least 30 minutes, four days a week to 15.83m – the same figure recorded in October 2012. Women accounted for 75 per cent of the increase, with 261,200 more active than this time last year. The number of sporty men grew by 81,900 year-on-year. As a result, the gender gap reduced slightly to 1.6m.
Going to the gym and keep fit classes remained very popular, with a 7 per cent increase resulting in the number of weekly users breaking the seven million mark for the first time. Exercise classes, such as indoor cycling and boxercise attracted a large number of women.
Running and athletics continued to see growth, with a 6 per cent boost in participants to 2.35m.
Over the 12 months, mountaineering, cricket and rugby league experienced the largest surges in participation. The former saw numbers rise from 77,700 to 104,300, representing a 34 per cent increase. Cricket numbers rose by 32 per cent to 179,700, while rugby league was boosted by a 24 per cent rise to 49,500.
The biggest losers were rounders – which saw the number of players dip by 37 per cent to 13,1000 – and weightlifting, which lost 11 per cent of its market. Of the top four most popular sports – swimming, athletics, cycling and football – only athletics made participation increase, with the rest all losing players over the 12-month period.
Sport England chief executive Jennie Price said that while the figures were “encouraging” – particularly the increase in female participants – she was “concerned” about the dip in participation numbers among the disabled.
Despite “significant focus and investment” the number of disabled people taking part fell by 2,400 to 1.56m.
“The sports sector needs to rethink how it supports disabled people, and in particular we all need to recognise that most disabled people are over 50 and that 75 per cent have more than one impairment,” said Price. “We will work hard with the sector to address this as we implement our new strategy.”
ukactive executive director Steven Ward said the boom in gym users highlights the ‘integral role’ the sector plays in driving physical activity across the country.
‘At over 400,000 extra participants in past 12 months alone, the growth represents the lion share of what we have seen across the entire sector,’ said Ward.
‘The growth in activity levels reflects the quality, flexibility, and diversity of programmes our Members provide and validates our belief that we face a golden era of growth.”
Source: Leisure Opportunities