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Simple activities set for participation increase

With indoor facilities and swimming pools able to reopen from this weekend, research shows swimming, walking, running and cycling look set for participation increases post-lockdown.

24th July 2020

Walking, cycling, swimming and running look set for a boost in people participating as research shows an increased desire to get active after lockdown.

Throughout lockdown we’ve been commissioning surveys – carried out by Savanta ComRes – to understand people’s activity levels and attitudes towards sport and physical activity.

The latest results show that, on the eve of indoor leisure facilities and pools being able to reopen, walking, running, cycling and swimming are top of people’s lists to do.

Cyclists ride in a line through a city.

Walking, running and cycling have proved popular throughout lockdown, but now 53% of people say they intend to walk, with 20% wanting to run, 19% keen on cycling and 20% saying they want to swim post-lockdown - up from 17% pre-coronavirus.

The research also shows 22% are looking forward to returning to the gym and doing fitness classes outside of their own home.

And that news has been welcomed by our executive director of insight, Lisa O’Keefe.

“With much of society now reopen, this weekend represents a milestone for sport and physical activity, as many people have missed going to the gym, swimming and playing their favourite sports indoors,” she said.

“From Saturday we have a real chance to build on the activity levels of the past few months, as we enter a new period of living with coronavirus (Covid-19).”

Activity levels initially held up well during lockdown, with people finding new ways to stay active, but as society has begun to reopen in recent weeks, there’s been a dip.

Our latest ComRes survey shows the number of adults doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity, five or more days a week, dropped from 30% to 27%.

From Saturday we have a real chance to build on the activity levels of the past few months, as we enter a new period of living with coronavirus

Lisa O'Keefe

Executive director of insight, Sport England

But the figures do show an increased desire to get active as lockdown lifts – as illustrated by the figures for cycling, swimming, running and walking – with 90% of people intending to get active at least once a month once all restrictions are removed.

And while Lisa acknowledges there will be a hesitancy in people getting back into gyms and indoor facilities, she’s confident they’ve followed all the necessary precautions.

“The leisure and sport sector has spent the last weeks and months preparing to help welcome people safely back and address apprehensions, particularly for those managing long-term health conditions and other challenges,” she added.

“There will be both excitement and caution for many of us as we enter our gyms and pools this weekend.

“We do expect to see long-term disruption to activity levels as a result of coronavirus, as people adjust to change, but our most recent survey results show people are intending to keep active – and we could even see some gains in the number of people running and swimming.”


More than half of people surveyed intend to walk regularly post-lockdown

During lockdown our Join the Movement campaign, funded by the National Lottery, has been giving examples of free online resources and workouts at, all of which has been designed to help inspire people to keep active during the crisis – both at home and outdoors.

More than half of people have said they’ve found new ways to be active during lockdown and 15% say they intend to do offline home-based fitness options in future, while 13% plan to take part in online classes – up from the 9% who reported doing so pre-lockdown.

To help them achieve this, we’ve teamed up with Our Parks – a London 2012 legacy initiative – to launch a free, on-demand programme of bodyweight-only sessions called Couch to Fitness, next week.

The programme will be suitable for beginners and intends to build intensity and fitness levels over its nine-week course.

Another partnership has seen us join forces with London Sport to invest in a campaign to promote the Couch to 5K running programme and app to Black, Asian and minority ethnic and lower-socio economic groups who’ve been disproportionately affected by coronavirus, to help support new exercise habits.

The app has had nearly a million downloads since relaunching during lockdown and, alongside other apps such as Active 10, has helped people gradually build up their walking and running levels.

We've put together a report to show the data in full, as well as our accompanying analysis.

See the data

The Savanta ComRes research was carried out from 10-14 July and surveyed around 2,000 English adults (16+). The data were weighted to be representative of English adults (16+) by age, gender, region, social grade and number of households with children under 16 years. Full data can be found on their website.

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