The survey was conducted in the 12 months to November 2019, and the figures show 28.6 million adults were active – i.e. doing at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. This accounts for 63.3% of the nation’s population and is up 404,600 people on the previous 12 months.
The results also show there were 159,500 fewer inactive people – those not doing at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week – than the previous 12 months.
The report shows the increase in activity is being driven by rises in the numbers of women, adults aged 55+ and Disabled people or people with long-term health conditions being active.
For Disabled people and people with a long term health condition, 4.5m were found to be active (47.3%), compared to 4.2m (44.8%) 12 months ago – an increase of 258,100 (2.5%).
Also, for the first time the report shows information relating to people’s perceived loneliness and its link to physical activity, with those both volunteering and playing sport being less likely to feel lonely and reporting higher levels of happiness.
“That overall activity levels were at a record high across England at the end of last year is excellent news, particularly the strong growth among older adults, people with a disability and among those with long term health conditions,” said Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth.
“These are areas which Sport England has committed significant time, insight and investment into in recent years and it is encouraging that we were starting to see such growth there. “
However, the results show inequalities linked to ethnicity and affluence do remain, with those from ethnic backgrounds and people in lower socio-economic groups less likely to be active – a fact acknowledged by Tim.
Results also show a drop in the activity levels of people aged 16-34, with those classed as active falling by 265,100, or 1.7%, compared to the previous 12 months – correspondingly, inactivity in the same group has increased by 176,600 (1.4%).
It is also acknowledged that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and resulting social distancing guidelines could halt the increase in activity seen in recent years, as well as worsening existing inequalities.