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What motivates one group to be active might be a barrier to another. That’s why we conduct research into how different people get active and what prevents them from doing so.

We’re all different

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To better understand what affects and impacts activity levels for specific population groups, we've undertaken extensive research, including Active Lives and Activity Check-In surveys, and we’ve introduced the Inequalities Metric.

Additionally, we have divided our data into different settings, scenarios, and groups to provide a deeper understanding of the various influences on activity behaviours. This helps identify the specific actions and conditions needed to encourage more people to be active.

Focus on inequalities

In 2024, we launched the Inequalities Metric, to tackle inequalities in sport and physical activity participation.

This innovative approach recognises the intersectionality of individuals' characteristics and aims to create a comprehensive measure of inequalities. Our goal is to ensure that everyone can benefit from sports and physical activities.

Key insights from the Inequalities Metric

The Inequalities Metric has unveiled significant insights:

For adults:

  • 55% of the adult population has at least one inequality factor.
  • 72% of adults with no inequality factors meet the activity guidelines, compared to 40% for those with two or more factors.

For children and young people:

  • 61% hold one or more inequality factors.
  • 48% of those with no inequality factors meet activity guidelines, compared to 40% for those with two or more factors.

The impact of equality in action

The most important indicator of lower levels of physical activity is where a person has two or more characteristics associated with being less active.

If we could close the inequality gap between those with no characteristics and those with two or more, the proportion of the adult population who are active would rise by 10% and the proportion of children meeting the Chief Medical Officers' guidelines would increase by 4%.

If everyone with one or more characteristics of inequality could be as active as those with none — there would be 4.6 million more active adults and 166,000 more active children and young people.

Key characteristics

Understanding which characteristics influence activity levels is crucial. The Inequalities Metric identifies which characteristics have the most impact on minutes of activity.

For adults these are:

  • Disabled people and those with a long-term health condition
  • Age 65 or over
  • Lower socioeconomic groups (NSSEC6-8)
  • Asian people
  • Pregnant women and parents of children under one year

For children and young people these are:

  • Girls
  • Other gender for those secondary-aged
  • Low affluence
  • Disabled people and those with a long-term health condition
  • Asian people
  • Black people

The key driver is not any one of these characteristics on their own, but rather how many different characteristics a person has. The more you have, the less active you are likely to be.

While we acknowledge other inequalities not included in this model, and continue work to mitigate their impact, addressing the challenges faced by individuals with two or more of these characteristics is more likely to have a significant impact on reducing overall inequalities.

In the past, we only focused on a few things about people, overlooking other important differences. This limited our partners' ability to meet community needs. Now, we're taking a broader approach to tackle inequality more fairly and provide a less top-down approach to tackling inequalities.

Applying the approach

Sport England is actively integrating the Inequalities Metric into decision-making processes. We're using it to shape campaigns, prioritise target audiences, and guide investment decisions. Additionally, the metric will be incorporated into future updates of our tools to enable broader access and usage.

Monitoring and collaboration

The Inequalities Metric will aid in monitoring disparities in sport and physical activity at both national and local levels. We encourage collaboration and invite organisations and individuals to explore how this model can enhance inclusivity in sport and physical activities.

For collaboration opportunities, please contact:

Frequently asked questions

  • What data is the metric based on?

    The current Inequalities Metric is based on minutes of activity data from two-year combined Active Lives datasets that have been weighted accordingly:

    • Active Lives Adult Survey Nov 2019-21
    • Active Lives Children and Young People Survey Academic Years 2020-22.

    The Inequalities Metric will be updated every two years with the most up-to-date Active Lives data. The next update to the Inequalities Metric is due in summer 2024.

    Read less
  • What method has been used to create the metric?

    We have analysed the Active Lives data using regression analysis, which is a statistical technique that is more complex that a simple descriptive analysis of activity levels by a single characteristic.

    Regression analysis provides us with a model of expected activity levels, which tells us what demographic characteristics (and importantly combinations of these) have an impact on minutes of activity, while controlling for the impact of other characteristics.

    The model tells us the number of characteristics an individual has is a more important driver of activity levels than what the characteristics are.

    There is a separate model for adults and children which is why different characteristics are identified for each.

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  • Why are specific characteristics included/not included?

    Regression analysis looks at combinations of characteristics on activity levels.

    In some instances, characteristics that you might expect to see are picked up through the intersections and therefore do not drive activity levels on their own.

    For example, women is not included as a characteristic on its own but they are highly represented among those with two or more characteristics of inequality.

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  • Are there any tools to help me use and apply the metric?

    We are creating tools and resources to support organisations apply the Inequalities Metric in their local places.

    We are in the process of developing a Place Case Study guidance document that explores how the Inequalities Metric, along with other relevant data, can be applied to help diagnose the different nature of need in different places.

    We are in the process of updating the Active Lives Online tool so users will be able to filter the data by the number of characteristics of inequality.

    Read less


Click on any of the below sections to find out what we know about participation, engagement and activity levels across a variety of settings and scenarios. 

Do major events increase participation? How do you recruit more volunteers to your local club? What impact does getting active outdoors have? We’ll tell you what we know.

The workforce

The workforce - which includes volunteers and coaches - play a big role in ensuring those taking part have the best possible experience.

Click below to read what the research tells us about how we can best support the people who help make sport and activity happen.

Topics and issues

Cost of living

Our Activity Check-in tracks a small number of metrics on behaviours and attitudes from both adults and children and young people towards sport and physical activity over time, revealing the impact of changing circumstances in a rapidly changing world.

During our first survey we asked people what impact the cost of living has on their physical activity habits.

The subsequent report explores our current, collective understanding of how the cost of living impacts people's activity levels and shares some ideas on how to help people get, or remain, active at low or no cost.

See the impact


The impact of coronavirus (Covid-19) was felt across the nation, in all walks of life, and we wanted to gauge how it affected activity levels.

In order to know how best to try and keep the nation active, we commissioned a weekly survey to be conducted during the time of restrictions on movement and social distancing.

See the report

Horizon scanning

In 2021 we undertook a horizon scanning project, to provide foresight on the trends that will impact sport and physical activity to 2031 and beyond.

The project explored the implications for the sector and helped us to identify and understand future strategic issues - ensuring we’re fit to face the future.  

This foresight, coupled with other insight and learnings, gave us a clearer and more rounded view of some of the issues that could be lying ahead as we developed, and embarked on delivering our 10-year vision - to transform lives and communities through sport and physical activity. 

You can find out more about the 15 trends, including a summary of each, how they might develop in the future and what this may mean for the sport and physical activity sector, by reading the report.

About our research

Our research guide

Putting people at the heart of what we do is a key part of our strategy. 

Working with research agency 2CV, we’ve produced a guide to help you create high quality research that allows you to understand the customers you're trying to reach. 

Long-held assumptions can stop the sport and physical activity sector engaging with people outside of our traditional strongholds. And that means we can’t appeal to new audiences – people who are so important to the success of our Uniting the Movement strategy.  

Insight is only as good as the research that underpins it – so this guide is designed to help you carry out top-quality research that has a big impact on your organisational goals.

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We've designed an Evaluation Framework to help partners evaluate funding streams and projects effectively, and to get maximum value from measurement and evaluation.

Evaluation Framework website

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