Method behind Active Lives

Collection of data began in November 2015 and runs for an initial period of five years

Our Active Lives Survey represents a new way of measuring the number of people taking part in sport and physical activity.

Active Lives Survey is a 'push-to-web' survey

It involves four postal mailouts designed to encourage participants to complete the survey online. A letter is sent to a household inviting up to two people per household to take part in the survey, either online or by requesting a paper version of the questionnaire.

There is also the option to take part via telephone for those whose first language is not English, and for those who may find online or paper completion difficult, for example those who are visually impaired.

The survey is ‘device-agnostic’ and can be completed on mobile or desktop devices. At the third mailing a paper questionnaire is sent out to maximise response rates.

This flexibility means an easier, more convenient way for people to access the survey.

The survey sample

The overall sample size will be around 198,250 people each year. Our minimum annual sample size for each English local authority (excluding the City of London and Isles of Scilly) will be 500, though some key areas will involve surveying a bigger number of people.

The survey sample will be randomly selected from the Royal Mail’s Postal Address File (generally regarded as the “Gold Standard” for population surveys), which is a list of addresses in the UK that is maintained by the Royal Mail and has a very high coverage of private residential addresses.

Data has been weighted to ONS population measures for geography and key demographics.

Survey development

We have also undertaken extensive testing of different data collection methods, much of it at the forefront of government statistics. This has included testing: face to face; mobile phone; online; and mobile apps. Evidence from all our testing gives us confidence that the new survey design provides an accurate picture of sports participation.


Active Lives roadmap

The core questionnaire was implemented in November 2015 and will give us information on sport and physical activity participation (KPI 1), inactivity (KPI 2) and spectating (KPI 9). With the addition of survey questions in May 2016, we will be able to develop our understanding around the following areas once we have a full year of data:

  • Volunteering
  • Readiness (opportunity and capability), habit formation, and resilience
  • Motivation
  • Wellbeing.

Releasing results

Active Lives results are published every six months.

The latest findings, for the year to mid-November 2016, were published in January 2017. Interim results for covering the period mid-May 2016 to mid-May 2017 will be released in September 2017.

The dataset will shortly be made available to download for those affiliated to an academic institution or certain not-for-profit organisations at the UK Data Service.