At a glance
Coronavirus (Covid-19) has had a profound effect on the world, with social distancing and restrictions on movement resulting in a complete overhaul of the way many people get active.
With the implementation of guidance in England limiting people to one outdoor activity a day and only with members of their own household, the majority of sports and exercise activities became impossible overnight.
As a result, we wanted to know what impact the restrictions were having on the nation's physical activity levels and habits - as well as people's attitudes towards getting active.
Understanding the issue
In order to be better equipped to achieve one of our two main objectives during the coronavirus crisis, keeping the nation active, we needed to know how people's activity levels were affected by the restrictions on movement, as well as people's attitudes to physical activity in general.
This research is helping us to focus our attentions on specific demographics and activities, via our Join the Movement campaign.
It’s also helped us provide advice to the sector through our Return to Play work once restrictions started to be lifted.
This survey explores the amount and type of activity being undertaken, how activity is changing over time, who people are being active with, and what they're thinking and feeling about being active, during the coronavirus outbreak. Brief summaries of each phase are shown below, or you can read our full report for more detail.
Data are not comparable with Active Lives survey data.
Phase 1 - national lockdown (Spring 2020)
With many activities unavailable during the first lockdown, we saw large numbers walking, cycling and running – despite worries about leaving home – and working out at home to stay active.Read more
Overall physical activity levels stayed fairly flat during the lockdown, though many of the same inequalities were present.
Among them, women and disabled adults were notably less active than men or non-disabled people, respectively. Those without access to outdoor space were also less active.
Phase 1 includes waves 1-6.
Phase 2 – easing of restrictions (Summer 2020)
Physical activity levels held as restrictions began to lift in mid-May. Over summer, as other parts of society reopened, the number of people active on most days (five or more days a week) declined, and the number active on some days (1-4 days per week) increased, compared to Phase 1.Read more
While participation began to pick up among returning activities, walking and home activity saw participation decline as we moved towards autumn.
Phase 2 includes waves 7-12.
Phase 3 – reinforcing restrictions (Autumn/Winter 2020)
With the weather turning and the rule of six and then the three-tier system introduced, the number of people active on most days fell lower by October, despite stable participation in most activities.Read more
Further national restrictions followed in November, with a three and then four-tier system in December.
And although more people returned to walking to stay active, overall physical activity levels stayed at the same lower level.
Phase 3 includes waves 13-14.
Phase 4 – national lockdown (early 2021)
In the third national lockdown physical activity levels are unchanged compared to Phase 3. With many other activities unavailable, walking and cycling for leisure have increased, as has home activity.Read more
Phase 4 includes waves 15-16.
Phase 5 - easing of restrictions (Spring 2021)
Physical activity levels held as restrictions began to lift in mid-April. Participation in gym/fitness and swimming increased as facilities reopened, but home based activity decreased, compared to Phase 4.Read more
Phase 5 includes wave 17 and beyond.
We've also put together a report to show the Savanta ComRes data in full, as well as our accompanying analysis.
If you'd rather visualise the data, we've also converted the Savanta ComRes research into a dashboard that can be used below.
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