National picture

Sports participation continues to show an upward trend

Sport England's data gives an insight into who plays sport and how they play it.

percentage of adults playing sport infographic

Sport England’s data for October 2015 to September 2016 shows that:

  • 16.0 million adults over 16 years old now play sport at least once a week. That’s 1.88 million more than in 2005/6
  • Most adults – 57% – still do not play sport once a week.

Who plays sport?

The number of adults who play sport at least once a week is on the rise – but just over half of all adults play no sport.

There are a number of key factors in sports participation:


Gender has a big influence on sports take-up. More men play sport than women. Currently 40.5% of men play sport at least once a week, compared to 31.9% of women. At a younger age, men are much more likely than women to play sport. But this difference declines sharply with age.

Age and socio-economic groups

Age is a factor in participation: 55.5% of 16-to-25-year-olds take part in at least one sport session a week, compared to 32.4% of older adults (26 plus). 

Take-up is highest among managerial/professional workers and intermediate social groups. It is lowest among manual workers and unemployed people. 

Ethnicity and disability

The number of both black and minority ethnic and white British adults playing sport is increasing. 2.92 million people from black and minority ethnic groups (37.5%) aged 16 years or over played sport once a week, an increase of 773,800 compared with 2005/6

More disabled people are taking part in sport – latest results show 16.8% are playing sport regularly, up from 15.3% in 2005/6.

To see the data, download the latest factsheets below.

How do people take part?

As well as playing sport, the Active People survey data shows how people are involved in sport – for instance, through club membership, tuition or coaching, through competitive sport or as volunteers.

  • 9 million people (16 plus) are members of a sports club – 22% of the English population.
  • Around 7 million people (16 plus) received sports coaching in 2015/16, while 5.9 million took part in competitive sport. Both activities have declined since 2005/6.
  • There are also 7 million people (16 plus) who volunteer regularly in sport, according to the latest figures.
how adults play sport infographic