Active Lives - everything's different, yet everything's the same

Last week Sport England released their latest Active Lives report into the state of physical activity in England. Whilst in many aspects little has changed in the last year, there were some interesting findings in the report worth digging into and understanding their significance and implications. Over the next three weeks we'll do just that - we won't dwell on the levels of activity or persistent inaqualities this time - but look at some indicators of change, for good and bad.

In this first blog we're going to look into the key activities that are responsible for the majority of physical activity in this country - the everyday activities that people undertake at huge scale that help us as a population to be active. Some are more accessible than others; all are hugely important in the long term battle to build and sustain an active nation.

Walking - it didn't used to count but is clearly the most important physical exercise that most people can incorporate into their daily lives and work. Great to see that the numbers of people walking for leisure and travel have both increased significantly in the course of the last year. Hopefully more people will ditch their cars for their feet, and use them to explore our amazing open spaces.

Fitness - not previously recorded as a single activity type, it is now clear how significant this category of fitness is with a whopping 13.2 million of us going to the gym, doing fitness classes or other exercise sessions. This is s sector undergoing huge change and innovation and continues to offer people a mssive range of great experiences to be more fit and active.

Running - the single biggest "sport", running continues to grow, offering more and more people an easy, low cost way to be active. The perception barriers continue to receed as more people find others like them are getting into running, and it becomes the norm on our streets and in our parks.

Cycling - the number of people cycling for leisure is still huge at 5 million, and though we can be confident that long-term the local iniatives starting to make an impact will make make cycling in all its forms very resilient, the recent negative news around the sport may have some short-term negative impact.

Swimming - previously categorised as the nation's most popular participation sport, swimming continues it's steep decline, with another 283,000 less people swimming than a year ago. The problems in swimming as systemic, and fundamental changes are needed to arrest the fall of a sport that can be so impactful for so many people.

One thing remains clear - all activities need to be remain accessible and relevant to continue to engage millions of people, as needs and behaviours continue to change. Each of these major sports and activities are critical to encouraging more people to be active, but none can take their importance for granted. 

Over the next couple of weeks we'll be publishing more analysis of the latest Active Lives survey. And click here to read our analysis of the last release of Active Lives.
Rick Jenner // Director of Strategy and Insight