Latest figures from our Active Lives Adult Survey show 27.7 million people – 61.8% of the 16+ population in England – are active.
That means they meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines and do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week – gaining health benefits including a reduced risk of dementia, depression, diabetes, and improved mental wellbeing.
At the other end of the scale, 11.5m people (25.7%) are inactive, meaning they do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week.
The results, which are based on a sample of almost 200,000 survey respondents, show that activity levels in England are stable.
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Walking remains the most popular activity, with 18.6m people walking for leisure. There are 14.5m people who walk for travel – an increase of 423,000.
The figures show the huge importance of investing to tackle inactivity and the inequalities between different groups in society
Jennie Price, chief executive, Sport England
A striking feature of the data is a significant increase of 518,000 more people doing interval training sessions, such as HIIT classes.
Figures show 20% of people did their interval training sessions at home, and 75% in a leisure/fitness/sport centre or gym.
A significant proportion of the people doing interval sessions (47%) are young people aged 16-34, which coincides with an increase in the number of HIIT classes available for free on YouTube.
In contrast, swimming and cycling have both decreased in popularity, with almost 283,000 fewer people swimming regularly, and 93,000 fewer people cycling.
Adventure sports has enjoyed a boost in popularity, with 337,000 more people taking part in activities such as hill and mountain walking, rock climbing, abseiling, orienteering, or high ropes.
- The gap in activity levels between the higher and lower socio-economic groups has stabilised, although people on lower incomes and disabled people are still much less likely to be active enough to benefit their health. Helping these groups get active remains a major priority for us and we're dedicating significant investment to both groups.
- Older people are getting more active, with the number of 55-74 year olds meeting the 150 minutes threshold increasing by 1.3%, to 58.3%. This is important given that we have an ageing population. Brisk walking, including hill and mountain walking, appears to be driving this increase.
Jennie Price, our chief executive, said: “While the overall activity levels of the nation are stable, what people are choosing to do is moving with the times.
“The popularity of HIIT shows the power of social media, and many older people are choosing to spend their leisure time in the great outdoors.
“Sport England has worked closely with the National Trust, the Forestry Commission and others to support more activity outdoors, and this remains a significant area of investment for us.
“The figures also show the huge importance of investing to tackle inactivity and the inequalities between different groups in society, which was highlighted in the Government’s strategy Sporting Future. It's why Sport England's 2017-21 strategy has, for the first time, allocated 25% of its investment to tackling inactivity.
"This is a long-term task but it could not be more important."
The survey figures cover the 12-month period from November 2016 to November 2017.