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Inequalities gap has grown during lockdown

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Research suggests that lockdown has worsened the gap between active and inactive people in Wales, with those from more deprived backgrounds suffering the most.

A survey carried out by Savanta ComRes on behalf of Sport Wales has found that while the overall levels of physical activity have not shifted significantly – 34% of Welsh adults say that they are doing more at this time than before the COVID-19 restrictions, while 33% say that they are doing less – there are noticeable variations within certain demographic groups.

Among adults from higher socio-economic backgrounds, 39% say they are doing more activity and 32% are doing less, meaning that there has been a +7 percentage point increase in activity. However, for adults from lower socio-economic backgrounds, 29% are doing more and 33% are doing less, meaning that there has been a -4 percentage point decrease among this group.

The survey results suggest that the divide is even more glaring among children. While 9% of adults overall report that their children are doing no physical activity or exercise on a typical day at the moment, for those from lower socio-economic backgrounds the figure is 14%.

Overall, 26% of parents said that their children are doing more activity than usual during lockdown, while 35% report that their children are doing less. However, only 23% of parents from lower socio-economic backgrounds say that their children are more active than usual, compared to 36% who say they are doing less.

Interestingly, the usual male-female divide in activity appears to have been reversed during lockdown. A greater proportion of women (36%) than men (32%) said that in the past week they have done more exercise or physical activity compared to a typical week before COVID-19 restrictions.

Women are more likely than men to have ‘walked for leisure’, done ‘online home exercise classes’ or enjoyed ‘informal active play/games in the house or garden’, while men are more likely to have ‘cycled for leisure’ than women. Women are more likely to have done physical activity on 1-4 days in the past week, while men are more likely to have done exercise on five or more days.

The survey also revealed a net rise in physical activity levels among younger adults aged 16-34 (+15 percentage points), but net decreases among those aged 35-54 (-2 percentage points) and 55+ (-5 percentage points).

Responding to the survey findings, Sport Wales Chief Executive Brian Davies said: “Whilst it is heartening to see the essential importance Government has placed on exercise during this pandemic, it unfortunately appears that many of the inequalities which already existed in sports participation have been intensified during lockdown. 

“As part of the collective work that is being undertaken towards the safe re-introduction of sport at all levels in Wales, we must ensure that we reflect this insight in our efforts to make sport and physical activity as accessible as possible and target our resources to reach those communities and groups who are statistically less active.

“For children in particular, I think these survey results emphasise the importance of school sport and our sports club structure to young people in Wales.

“For the moment, while lockdown continues, I’d really like to flag up the #BeActiveWales campaign which offers a wide range of activity ideas and challenges to help all ages get active, as well as home workouts that suit all abilities and backgrounds. 

“We’ve also made available a number of specialist resources aimed at improving children’s physical and sport skills. They can be downloaded for free from our website. Please visit the #BeActiveWales section on the Sport Wales website to find out more, or search for the hashtag on social media.”

Savanta ComRes surveyed 1,007 Welsh adults between 8 and 12 May. The data has been weighted to be demographically representative of Welsh adults 16+ by gender, age and the estimated households with children under 16.

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