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Top 20 sports: Walking and jogging increase during pandemic but most sports decline during year of lockdowns

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, July 2019 – June 2020, n=54,279 and July 2020 – June 2021, n=64.973. Base: Australians aged 14+
Walking for exercise is easily the most popular sport or activity which Australians regularly participate in – and one of the few activities Australians did more of during the year to June 2021 compared to a year earlier.

Nearly 11 million adult Australians, or 51.9%, regularly go for a vigorous stroll. This is a large increase of over 850,000 (+8.5%) on a year earlier. As Australia’s Capital Cities endured multiple lockdowns over the last year a brisk walk around the local neighbourhood was one of the only legitimate reasons to leave home for millions of people.

Going to the gym/weight training is again Australia’s second most popular sporting activity with over 3.5 million Australians (16.9%) regularly participating, an increase of 97,000 (+2.8%) on a year ago.

There is a new activity in third place overall with over 2.2 million Australians (10.5%) now regularly jogging, an increase of 251,000 (+12.8%) on a year ago and overtaking swimming which experienced the largest decline of any sport, down 637,000 (-32%) to 1.35 million.

These are the top-line findings from the latest National Sports Participation report from Roy Morgan.

Top 20 Sports and Activities by regular participation rate

Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, July 2019 – June 2020, n=54,279 and July 2020 – June 2021, n=64.973. Base: Australians aged 14+

Only three other sports and activities manage a participation of over 1 million Australians on a regular basis led by yoga with almost 1.3 million Australians (6.1%), an increase of 21,000 (+1.6%) on a year ago.

Close behind were the over 1.2 million Australians (5.8%) regularly cycling, although down 125,000 (-9.3%) on a year ago, and 1.1 million Australians (5.2%) regularly hiking/bushwalking, down 126,000 (-10.2%).

The most widely played team sports are Soccer, Basketball, Cricket and Netball

There are only four team sports that make the top 20 leading sports and activities, although all four had fewer regular participants in the year to June 2021 than a year ago as lockdowns forced the cancellations of many sporting competitions, particularly in Victoria during the long lockdowns of 2020.

In first place amongst the team sports, and 14th overall, is soccer with 400,000 Australians playing ‘World Football’ on a regular basis – well ahead of any of the three other main football codes.

In a clear second place is basketball played regularly by 340,000 Australians. The new National Basketball League season is due to start in early December with new team the Tasmania JackJumpers opening the season with a home game against the Adelaide 36ers.

Other popular team sports are cricket, played regularly by 303,000 Australians, and netball, played regularly by 287,000 Australians in the year to June 2021.

Michele Levine, CEO, Roy Morgan, says the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted the sporting activities of millions of Australians over the last 18 months with state-wide and city-wide lockdowns forcing people to spend much of their time at home:

“In the year to June 2021 almost 14.4 million Australians aged 14+ participated in at least one sporting or leisure activity regularly covering over 68% of the population. This was up slightly on the 14.2 million (67.8% of the population) that did so in the year before but the impact of the pandemic meant the increase was concentrated in only a few sports and activities.

“Notably walking for exercise increased its popularity significantly over the last year with almost 11 million Australians regularly going for a brisk walk – an increase of over 850,000 (+8.5%) on a year ago. This result is no surprise when one considers that the various lockdowns experienced around the country during the pandemic have always allowed for the importance of exercise – even with other constraints such as travel limits and curfews.

“The other big ‘winner’ during the pandemic has been jogging, which over 2.2 million Australians reported during regularly in the year to June 2021 – an increase of over 250,000 (+12.8%) on a year earlier. The other leading sports to grow despite the restrictions of the pandemic were gym/weight training up 97,000 (+2.8%), tennis up 27,000 (+6.8%), yoga up 21,000 (+1.6%) and mountain biking up 11,000 (+3.9%).

“The big sport with the most notable decline was swimming which saw a decline of over 630,000 (-32%) from a year earlier with 1.35 million reporting they swam regularly. It is important to note that these figures on sporting activities relate to the year to June 2021 and came before Australia’s successful campaign at the Tokyo Olympics winning a record 9 swimming gold medals.

“Roy Morgan’s extensive demographic, attitudinal and behavioural data allows sporting organisations to gain deeper insight into the trends for participation in their respective sports and also develop an understanding of the other interests and activities that drive participants.”

For comments or more information please contact:
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About Roy Morgan

Roy Morgan is the largest independent Australian research company, with offices throughout Australia, as well as in Indonesia, the United States and the United Kingdom. A full service research organisation specialising in omnibus and syndicated data, Roy Morgan has over 70 years’ experience in collecting objective, independent information on consumers.

Margin of Error

The margin of error to be allowed for in any estimate depends mainly on the number of interviews on which it is based. Margin of error gives indications of the likely range within which estimates would be 95% likely to fall, expressed as the number of percentage points above or below the actual estimate. Allowance for design effects (such as stratification and weighting) should be made as appropriate.

Sample Size

Percentage Estimate

40%-60%

25% or 75%

10% or 90%

5% or 95%

1,000

±3.0

±2.7

±1.9

±1.3

5,000

±1.4

±1.2

±0.8

±0.6

7,500

±1.1

±1.0

±0.7

±0.5

10,000

±1.0

±0.9

±0.6

±0.4

20,000

±0.7

±0.6

±0.4

±0.3

50,000

±0.4

±0.4

±0.3

±0.2