The reports show that more than 3 million people were less active between mid-March and mid-May compared to the same period a year before, and this demonstrates the extent to which people’s lives were disrupted.
They also highlight the importance of organised sport and access to facilities for specific groups, and that some groups found it more difficult to adapt to the new regulations than others.
Disabled people, people aged 70 and over, people with long-term health conditions and people from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic groups were disproportionately impacted.
What happened in lockdown?
In lockdown itself, positive government messages about getting outside once a day for exercise played an important role in reminding people about the importance of activity for their health.
Today’s report paints a picture of a nation doing its best to stay active despite the challenges to their daily lives, with people turning to home-based fitness, running and cycling in great numbers.
Walking was the most popular overall activity in the early weeks from mid-March, with more than 21 million adults walking at moderate intensity, while outdoor running was also popular.
The report also shows that the number of people cycling for leisure or sport increased from 6.1m to 7.2m (+2.5%) from mid-March to mid-May compared to the same period 12 months prior. As cycling for travel was down by 773,000 (-1.7%), the number of people cycling in total was up by 715,000 (+1.5%) overall.
Exercising at home also saw a boom compared to the same two-month period in 2019, as people were encouraged to get active indoors, with people like Joe Wicks proving inspirational.
Fitness classes also moved online while people got active at home in other ways, in the garden with their families or through activities like dance. Overall, over the two-month period, there was an increase in home exercise of 2.1m and this was largely driven by women.
Join the Movement, our £3.5m National Lottery-funded campaign, encouraged people to #stayinworkout and played an important role in helping to motivate and provide guidance on how to find free, accessible activities for all ages and abilities.
Our chief executive, Tim Hollingsworth, said the reports reveal a picture of both the ongoing growth in activity levels across England before the pandemic and people's determination to keep active even when they could only leave their homes once a day.
“Though the early months of lockdown brought unprecedented disruption to our lives and had a huge impact on our overall engagement in sport and physical activity, it is also positive to see how many people turned to new activities like cycling, fitness at home and running,” he added.
"It also highlights the challenges this year has brought to those groups who already find it harder than most to be active, with disabled people, people with health conditions and younger people struggling, reminding us of the importance of educational settings, community leisure facilities and team sports that underpin access to activity for so many people across England.
"As facilities have reopened and activities have restarted, great credit is due to those who are out there working incredibly hard ensuring people can return to the sports and activities they love, and though we know the winter months will bring additional challenges, with government support we will continue to support our sector through our funding, our insight and our campaigns."
Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "As our physical and mental health have been tested by the coronavirus pandemic, the government has put sport and physical activity at the heart of its agenda.
"It's why we made sure people could exercise even at the height of the national lockdown, worked hard to get gyms and dozens of sports reopened when it was safe to do so, and put more than £200 million into community sports clubs and exercise centres so they could remain open. Today we have underlined that commitment through a further £100 million to support council leisure centres most in need.
"As we head into a critical winter, we need to get the whole country match-fit to beat coronavirus. I encourage those yet to get active to feed off the spirit of the early morning walkers, the Wicks workouts and evening park runners earlier this year, and take up initiatives such as Sport England's 'Join the Movement' campaign that continue to boost our wellbeing."