Good sports

New data from Sport Australia has revealed our top 20 sports and physical activities… but is a small increase in participation enough?

The data, from Sport Australia’s AusPlay Survey, shows that recreational activities like walking, fitness/gym, swimming, running and cycling top the list, with football at number six the most popular organised sport for Australian participants.

The first three years of AusPlay has recorded an increase in the overall number of Australians participating in sport and physical activity: 63% of Australians interviewed in 2018 have participated in sport or physical activity at least three times per week compared to 59.9% in 2016.

Australia’s top 20 participation sports and physical activities (based on annual participation, and including only out-of-school activities for children aged 0 to 14, and all activities for those aged 15 and over):

  1. Walking (Recreational) 8,783,064
  2. Fitness/Gym 6,874,541
  3. Swimming 4,505,531
  4. Running/Athletics 3,334,693
  5. Cycling  2,359,660
  6. Football 1,767,288
  7. Tennis 1,202,011
  8. Bush walking 1,189,493
  9. Basketball 1,017,968
  10. Golf 1,015,150
  11. Yoga 984,362
  12. Australian Football 913,668
  13. Netball 901,903
  14. Cricket 798,618
  15. Dancing (recreational) 688,293
  16. Pilates 585,706
  17. Surfing 508,015
  18. Gymnastics 489,058
  19. Touch football 464,721
  20. Martial arts 316,826

Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer says it’s encouraging to see a gradual increase in physical activity levels of Australians, but warns much more improvement and long-term behavioural change is required to combat what she calls Australia’s inactivity crisis.

“The positive news in this data is that it shows Australians are making the effort to get moving because they are becoming more aware of the importance of sport and physical activity to their health and wellbeing,” Ms Palmer says.

“It’s a small step in the right direction, but we’re still falling a long way behind when it comes to meeting recommended physical activity guidelines. For example, research tells us only 19% of children meet the recommended one hour of physical activity a day.

“Our general lifestyles are becoming more sedentary than ever before because of things such as technological advances, so that makes it critically important to find dedicated time for sport and physical activity in our lives.

“We need to move more and our lives depend on it. It is estimated physical inactivity now contributes to the deaths of 16,000 Australians every year. That’s shocking, it’s almost 14 times the national road toll.

“Sport Australia realises the importance of shifting the dial on this now because we are committed to making generational change.”

The data also found that:

  • There has been a surge in women regularly participating in Australian Football since the introduction of the AFLW, with the number of women (aged 15+) participating at least once a week rising from 31,542 in 2017 to 59,504 in 2018. Participation at least twice a week has gone from 19,005 to 48,225, a rise of 154%.
  • Walking has the highest participation rate, but is rarely an organised activity so Australians spend far less on walking than the other top 20 activities. Australian adults spend approximately $23 million per year on walking participation, compared to more than $3 billion Australian adults spend each year on fitness and gym activities.
  • Looking at participation per capita, the ACT leads adult participation in six of the 20 top activities (Gym/Fitness, Running, Cycling, Bushwalking, Football and Martial Arts). Other leading states and territories for top 20 activities include: Victoria (Golf, Basketball, Pilates);  Northern Territory (Yoga, AFL, Cricket); NSW (Swimming, Tennis, Dancing, Surfing); Queensland (Touch Football); Tasmania (Walking); and South Australia (Netball).

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