Despite significant improvements, there are nearly a million adults in Wales who aren’t taking part in any sport or physical activity.
According to the ‘Sport and Active Lifestyles: State of the Nation Report 2022-23’ released today by Sport Wales, 40% of adults in Wales (998,000 people) said that they hadn’t participated in sport or physical activity* during the previous four weeks.
The data, which was gathered as part of the National Survey for Wales 2022-23**, also shows that although margins are closing, participation levels are still below average for women, disabled adults and those living in material deprivation***.
But the survey did find that activity levels are generally higher this year than they were last year, and 39% of adults took part in sport and physical activity three or more times per week.
The survey also found that adults who participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week reported having better general health, felt less lonely, had higher life satisfaction and were happier.
Sport Wales is supporting the Welsh sports sector to make good use of the results, and other available insight, to help them continue to reduce the inequalities that exist in sports participation across Wales.
The public body is also urging those in other sectors, such as health, to look at how sport and physical activity can be used to support their operations.
Owen Hathway, Sport Wales’ Assistant Director for Insight, Policy and Public Affairs, said: “We have seen improvements this year in terms of the number of adults who are exercising regularly, but there’s still a large proportion of the Welsh public who aren’t active.
“For many different reasons, there are significant numbers of people who aren’t engaging with sport and physical activity at all, while others are either choosing, or being left with no option but to drop out of sport because the experience isn’t right for them. That’s really sad and it’s worrying for the nation’s long term health and happiness.
“The Vision for Sport in Wales is that everyone can have a lifetime enjoyment of sport. To achieve that ambition, we’ll need to collectively ensure that Welsh sport is safe, accessible, inclusive and affordable.
“Sport can have a profound impact on the overall wellbeing of the nation, so we must look at how we maximise that impact across society.”
The survey also found that generally, activity levels fall as people get older. More than 80% of 16-24 year olds took part in at least one sport or physical activity during the last four weeks, but less than 60% of 55-64 year olds did the same.
During the last year, the biggest rise in activity levels has been found among the 16 to 24 year-old age group where an extra 29,000 people are saying they’ve taken part in at least one sport or physical activity in the last four weeks compared to last year.
There’s still a clear gap (8 percentage points) between the percentage of women who exercise regularly and the percentage of men, although that gap has closed by 1 percentage point during the last year.
There’s an 11-percentage-point difference in the proportion of adults who participate in sport or physical activity three or more times per week between those who live in the most deprived areas, compared to those who live in the least deprived areas of Wales.
However, 86,000 more adults living in material deprivation participated in 2022-23 compared to 2021-22, meaning that the participation gap between those in material deprivation, and those who are not, has narrowed from a 21-percentage point difference to a 14-percentage point difference.
Owen continued: “It’s positive to see that some of the participation gaps among certain under-represented groups have closed a little, but there’s clearly a great amount of work that to be done to provide sport and physical activity options which suit everyone’s needs.
“The survey results tell us that 685,000 adults in Wales would like to take part in more sport and physical activity. We also know that 183,000 of those come from the group who aren’t currently doing anything active on a regular basis. So, there’s huge demand there from people who either want to be doing more exercise, or who want to get started.”
Grassroots sports clubs and organisations can play their part in helping to make sport more inclusive for all by applying for funding from Sport Wales. The Be Active Wales Fund offers lottery funding between £300 to £50,000 to help buy sports equipment, pay for coaching courses and more.
*The National Survey for Wales classes a sport or physical activity as either a Fitness Activity (home workout, gym visit, fitness class, walking over 2 miles, cycling, swimming, jogging etc) or Sports and Games (football, rugby, netball, hockey, racket sports, athletics, golf etc) or Outdoor Pursuits (horse riding, climbing, water sports etc).
During 2022-23, 56% of adults in Wales participated in at least one ‘Fitness Activity’, 16% participated in at least one ‘Sports and Games’, and 6% participated in at least one ‘Outdoor Pursuits’ during the previous four weeks. (Please note: Adults could report participation for multiple activities).
** The National Survey for Wales is a large-scale, random sample household survey of around 11,000 adults (ages 16-years and above) covering a wide range of topics. It runs all year round, across the whole of Wales. The National Survey for Wales is conducted by the ONS and coordinated by the Welsh Government on behalf of public bodies in Wales.
***Material deprivation is a measure which is designed to capture the consequences of long-term poverty on households.