Measuring sport and activity

People take part in sport and physical activity in different ways, with many doing a range of activities

Here we detail how sport and physical activity is measured in our Active Lives Surveys, both Adult and Children and Young People.

Adult Survey

Levels of activity

We measure activity based on the number of moderate intensity equivalent minutes whereby each ‘moderate’ minute of activity counts as one minute and each 'vigorous' minute of activity counts as two moderate minutes.

Moderate activity is defined as activity where you raise your breathing rate, and vigorous activity is where you’re out of breath or are sweating.

Depending on the number of minutes of moderate intensity equivalent (MIE) physical activity, people are described as being:

  • Inactive – doing fewer than 30 minutes a week
  • Fairly active - doing 30-149 minutes a week
  • Active – doing at least 150 minutes a week.

Types of activity

Taking part in sport and physical activity is measured as the equivalent of 30 minutes’ activity at least twice in the last 28 days. Each session must last at least 10 minutes and be of at least moderate intensity.

An individual can reach the minimum threshold by a combination of two 30 minute sessions across the last 28 days or by six 10 minute sessions, for example. This is measured for all the following activities:

  • Sporting activities
  • Fitness activities
  • Dance
  • Cycling and walking for leisure
  • Cycling and walking for travel.

Volunteering to support sport and physical activity

We count a person as having volunteered if they have taken part in a volunteering role to support sport or physical activity twice in the last 12 months.

Measuring outcomes

The Active Lives Adult Survey also captures data designed to better understand impact against four of the five social outcomes identified within the government’s sport and physical activity strategy – Sporting Future.

For the wellbeing measures of life satisfaction, happiness, feeling your life is worthwhile and anxiety, we ask respondents to rate themselves on a scale of 0-10, with responses averaged to provide a mean score.

The questions asked were:

a) Life satisfaction: How satisfied are you with life nowadays?

b) Happiness: How happy did you feel yesterday?

c) Feeling your life is worthwhile: To what extent are the things you do in your life worthwhile?

d) Anxiety: I can achieve most of the goals I set myself.

For the individual development and social and community development measures, we ask respondents to rate their agreement to a statement on a five point scale from strongly agree (5) to strongly disagree (1).

Responses are averaged to provide a mean score.

The questions asked were:

a) Individual development: (using the self-efficacy question) I can achieve most of the goals I set myself

b) Individual development: If I find something difficult, I keep trying until I can do it

c) Social and community development: Most people in your local area can be trusted.

Sport spectating

Spectating is measured as having attended two or more live sports events, whether professional or amateur, over the previous 12 months.

Children and Young People Survey

Activity through the week

Activity in the last week is measured for the Children and Young People Survey.

The Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for young people recommend doing 60 minutes of activity on seven days a week, with activity being of at least moderate intensity.

As a result, we present activity data for four activity groups:

  • Active every day (60 minutes or more every day)
  • Active across the week (an average of 60 minutes or more a day but not every day)
  • Fairly active (an average of 30-59 minutes a day)
  • Less active (less than an average of 30 minutes a day).

At school/outside school

Government policy aims that children and young people should get 30 minutes of their daily physical activity through the school day and 30 minutes outside of school, with activity being of at least moderate intensity.

For in-school activity, every day is five days (weekdays), for outside school, activity every day is seven days.

We present data for three categories for both inside and outside of school:

  • 30 minutes or more every day
  • An average of 30 minutes or more a day but not every day
  • Less active (less than an average of 30 minutes a day).

Types of activity

Information is presented on whether or not the pupil has done a specific activity for any duration with at least moderate intensity in the last week.

Activities are presented individually (e.g. cricket) and as broader groups of activities (e.g team sports).

Volunteering to support sport and physical activity

We count a child as having volunteered if they have taken part in a volunteering role to support sport and physical activity twice in the last 12 months.

Examples of volunteering activities include being a sports leader or ambassador, coaching, refereeing, umpiring and stewarding, helping set up and clear away, helping with refreshments and any other activities which support sport and physical activity.

Activities which only help family members are not included and activities which involve sport and activity to raise money are also not included.

Measuring outcomes

Three dimensions of mental wellbeing are measured: happiness, life satisfaction and the extent to which children and young people feel that the things they do in their life are worthwhile.

The way the data is collected differs slightly between year groups.

  • For Years 1-2, a smiley face question was used to measure happiness and is expressed as three categories in our data, whereby a smiley face is happy, a sad face is sad and a straight face is neither happy nor sad. This was the only outcome measured for Years 1-2 and is presented as percentages.
  • For Years 3-6 the standard Office for National Statistics (ONS) ‘how happy did you feel yesterday?’ question was used. This was the only outcome measured for Years 3-6 and is presented as a mean score out of 10.
  • For Years 7-11, the standard ONS questions were used for happiness, life satisfaction and feeling worthwhile (‘How happy did you feel yesterday?’; ‘How satisfied are you with life nowadays?’; ‘To what extent are the things you do in your life worthwhile?’). These are presented as mean scores out of 10.

Individual and community development was captured from Years 3-11 pupils using a question about trying difficult things (positive perceived self-efficacy) and a question about trusting peers (positive levels of social trust).

Each question is asked on a five-point scale from strongly agree (5) to strongly disagree (1) with agree and strongly agree combined to give a positive response.

The questions asked were:

a) Individual development: (Using the self-efficacy question) If I find something difficult, I keep trying until I can do it (Years 3-11). Results are presented as percentages.

b) Community development: How much do you feel you can trust people who are a similar age to you? (Years 3-11). Results are presented as percentages.

Sport spectating

Spectating is measured as having attended two or more live sports events, whether professional or amateur, over the previous 12 months.