By: Blonde Two

Sport England have a most excellent remit, their aim is to work with people who do or could get active (that means us) and do as much as they can to support and encourage us all into sports or activities. One of the ways in which they are doing this is to find out as much as they can about what we all do to get active and how we do it. This information is then made available to anybody who might be able to make use of it or even anybody who is just interested. Their latest piece of research, ‘Active Lives’ includes some of what we might term, ‘outdoor activities’ rather than sport (although I realise there is an overlap) and has reached some interesting conclusions. You can read the first Active Lives report here and I have picked out some interesting highlights below:

Levels of Inactivity

60.7% of us are ‘active’ every week (more than 150 mins of exercise), 25.5% are inactive (less than 30 mins of exercise), which leaves the 13.7% in the middle (‘fairly active’) who do something in between. This interested me because I would have expected more people to be ‘fairly active’ than ‘active’. Maybe there is something about activity that means that once we start, we realise the benefits and want to do more.

Socioeconomics of Inactivity

This is something that we Blondes have met before. Activity tends to happen more (and obviously this is a generalisation) in families that have greater resources. There could be many reasons for this but one of them has to be the perception that activity is an expensive hobby. It can be, of course, my swimming pool and gym membership used to set me back £45 a month, these days I swim in the sea for free and, although I possible get less exercise each time, can afford to go three times a day if I so choose. We Blondes have always worked hard to make sure that our youngsters weren’t deterred from outdoor education by cost, sadly there will inevitably still have been parents who didn’t even consider it as an option because they were worried about being able to afford it.

Inactivity and Gender

Being I woman, I would love to think that women were more active than men but the truth is that we aren’t, at least not in the UK. 15% of UK women are inactive as opposed to 13% of men. 2 percent doesn’t sound like a big margin, but we are talking about nearly a million women here. Sport England have looked more closely into the issues regarding women and activity and asked questions surrounding pregnancy, retirement and family size. The results are very interesting, not least because women with no children are more likely to be ‘active’ than those with three (I suggest you don’t say that to any mum with a young family!) The Sport England Spotlight on Gender report is definitely worth a look.

Inactivity and Age

With my 50th birthday coming up in January, age and its relationship with activity interests me. In my age bracket (45-54) 22% of people are inactive, when we get to 75%+, 54% of us will be. It would be great to see the statistics that show a continuity of activity levels, i.e. if I am active now am I more likely to be active when I am over 75 or I have worn my body out so much it can’t move anymore?

Gender and Types of Activity

Men and women like doing different things. That isn’t really news but it is interesting to look at the patterns when they are presented statistically (and in a pretty infographic). Men do more ‘sporting activities’ and ‘cycling’ (for leisure and travel) whereas women prefer ‘fitness activities’ and ‘walking’ (for leisure and travel). Only 1% of men dance, which seems a shame for the 3% of women that do it.

Types of Activity

There is a winner in the types of activity competition and we Blondes are very pleased to announce that it is ‘walking for leisure’. Only 41% of respondents said that they did this, but compared to running (15%) and swimming (11%), that isn’t too bad. Interestingly ‘cycling for travel’ came out bottom of the list, with only 7% of people saying that they did it; a definite argument for creating more safe cycle routes I would say.

Activity and Where We Live

Devon comes out well in this of course, as does most of the South West. I am not being smug about this, it isn’t everybody in the UK who has such wonderful choices of outdoor location so close to hand. My local authority (Torbay) shows 19.3% of people as inactive, which is below the national average but still too many when we all live within walking distance of the beach.

Interesting stuff I am sure you will agree and, as I am currently still in bed, it is maybe time I got up for my morning swim. It will be interesting to see where Sport England take this information. They already run many great initiatives. If you want to read more you can find the Active Lives survey here and if you love the detail, as I do, you can download the data tables (that is a posh word for spreadsheets) and have a look in more detail. Thanks Sport England… very interesting!