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Adults’ physical activity levels in England are back at pre-pandemic levels

The report shows healthy increases in the number of adults taking part in organised team sports (Image: Sport England)

The number of adults in England who regularly play sports or take part in other forms of physical activity has returned to pre-pandemic levels.

According to Sport England’s latest Active Lives report – which covers the period between November 2021 and November 2022 – nearly two thirds (63.1%) of the adult population undertook at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week.

Team sports have bounced back particularly well, after organised sport was hugely disrupted during the pandemic lockdowns. Football saw an increase of 561,000 regular players in the year from November 2021 to 2022, while cricket (up 124,000), netball (up 139,000) and basketball (up 57,000) also saw significant growth.

In the report, Sport England states: “Swimming and team sports both had downward trends before the pandemic and were perhaps the most impacted activities given the nature and locations of taking part in them.

“While swimming has seen significant recovery, levels remain below pre-pandemic and we see a continuation of the downward trend (down by just over 1m since Nov 15-16).

“In contrast, team sports have recovered to pre-pandemic levels with indications of a stabilisation at around 3.1m players.

“People who play team sports are more likely to report they find sport and exercise enjoyable and satisfying than those who take part in other forms of activity.”

The report also shows that the number of people regularly walking and running – an activity which boomed during pandemic lockdowns – has fallen back, but remains well above pre-COVID-19 figures.

Tim Hollingsworth, CEO of Sport England, said: “The pandemic was an unprecedented challenge to community sport and activity in England, so it’s great news that the overall number of people being physically active has bounced back to pre-pandemic levels.

“We know full-well, however, that there is still much to do. It’s clear that alongside continuing significant financial challenges, the recovery has not been universal, and today’s report provides further evidence that some groups face more barriers to being active than others.

“That’s exactly why our Uniting the Movement strategy continues to see us work with our partners to disproportionally focus resources and funding towards the people and places that need the most support to be active.

To download the full Active Lives report, click here.

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