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Why this Active Lives report is still very important

Our director of insight Lisa O'Keefe says the results of our latest Active Lives Adult Survey matter despite the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

23rd April 2020

by Lisa O'Keefe
Executive director of insight, Sport England

Today, we released our latest Active Lives Adult Survey report covering the 12 months from November 2018 to 2019.

It gives us a glimpse into a world before the unprecedented disruption caused by coronavirus and the social distancing guidelines, and indeed the floods, which were so widespread towards the end of 2019 and into early 2020. 

We’re all experiencing significant disruption, and I don’t think any of us were surprised to see the impact it is having on sport and physical activity come through via our weekly Savanta ComRes Survey

So far, that disruption is not impacting the collection of data for the Active Lives Adult Survey, so the next set of results in October 2020 will be even more fascinating... if that were possible!

But what of today’s results? And are they still relevant? The simple answer is yes.

They provide their usual comprehensive view of what was happening, where we were seeing success and where we need to continue to work hard to address inequalities.

It’ll help shape future decisions and influence policies that will help our sector recover from the impact of coronavirus. 

Overall, the report reveals a positive picture.

It shows there was an increase of just over 400,000 regularly active adults in England, with a record high of 28.6 million taking part in at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week.

During this period, there was also a drop in the number of inactive adults of 159,500, and once again, the majority of that reduction is driven by women.

The results also show the continued growth we were seeing in the numbers of regularly active adults with a disability or long-term health condition – including those with multiple or more complex conditions.

This is especially pleasing as it suggests the We Are Undefeatable campaign has had a positive impact on activity levels. 

I was also pleased to see a further reduction in the gender gap, and strong growth in participation for people aged over 55.

However, although there is no change in the activity levels of those from lower socio-economic groups, it remains the case that activity levels amongst adults from less affluent families are still significantly lower than those who are well off, and activity levels differ significantly when comparing adults from different ethnic backgrounds.

We’ve also seen a decline in activity levels of people aged 16-34, and with the numbers regularly active falling by 265,100 and the numbers inactive increasing by 176,600, there is a suggestion that the change is being driven by people shifting from active into inactive.

Reengaging this group will be a major challenge and one of the priorities for the sector in the months and years to come.

Today’s release provides the latest picture of volunteering and the continued positive association between engaging in sport and physical activity and mental wellbeing, individual and community development.

It also, for the first time, looks at loneliness and its relationship to how active we are.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the results show active people are less likely to feel lonely than inactive people, an important message to reinforce in this most difficult of times.

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