Physical activity

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • from November 2019 to November 2020, 61.4% of people in England aged 16 and over were ‘physically active’ – they did 150 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity a week

  • people of Mixed ethnicity were the most likely out of all ethnic groups to be physically active – this has remained consistent for the last 5 years

  • people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than average to be physically active – this has remained consistent for the last 5 years

  • in the Black, Asian and White British ethnic groups, men were more likely to be active than women

  • although the figures show differences between men and women in other ethnic groups, sample sizes were too small to make reliable generalisations

2. Things you need to know

The data measures levels of physical activity for people aged 16 and over in England, by ethnicity.

Moderate activity is activity which raises your breathing rate. Vigorous activity is where you are out of breath or sweating. When measuring physical activity levels, 1 minute of vigorous activity is the equivalent of 2 minutes of moderate activity.

Data is recorded for 3 groups:

  • physically active – people who do 150 minutes or more a week
  • fairly active – people who do between 30 and 149 minutes a week
  • physically inactive – people who do less than 30 minutes a week

The physical activities covered in the survey include:

  • sporting activities – like team sports, racquet sports, swimming, bowls, fencing
  • fitness activities – like gym sessions, fitness classes, weights
  • cycling for sport, leisure, or travel
  • walking for leisure or travel
  • dance

Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number, so some totals may not add up to 100%.

Not included in the data

Data based on fewer than 30 respondents is not included. This is because the numbers involved are too small to make reliable generalisations.

The ethnic categories used in this data

Data is shown for 7 aggregated ethnic groups:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Chinese
  • Mixed
  • White British
  • White Other
  • Other

Methodology

Read the detailed methodology document for the data on this page.

The figures on this page are based on survey data. Find out more about:

In the data file

See Download the data for:

  • confidence intervals for each ethnic group – find out more about how we use confidence intervals to determine how reliable estimates are

  • data from November 2015 to November 2020

3. By ethnicity over time

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over who were physically active, by ethnicity over time 2015 to 2020
Nov 2015 to Nov 2016 Nov 2016 to Nov 2017 Nov 2017 to Nov 2018 Nov 2018 to Nov 2019 Nov 2019 to Nov 2020
Ethnicity Nov 2015 to Nov 2016 % Nov 2015 to Nov 2016 Number of Respondents Nov 2016 to Nov 2017 % Nov 2016 to Nov 2017 Number of Respondents Nov 2017 to Nov 2018 % Nov 2017 to Nov 2018 Number of Respondents Nov 2018 to Nov 2019 % Nov 2018 to Nov 2019 Number of Respondents Nov 2019 to Nov 2020 % Nov 2019 to Nov 2020 Number of Respondents
All 62.1 198,911 61.8 196,635 62.7 179,747 63.3 181,535 61.4 177,735
Asian 55.6 7,984 54.0 8,240 56.3 6,719 53.9 7,304 49.5 7,824
Black 56.6 2,910 55.4 2,996 56.6 2,494 57.7 2,524 53.3 2,664
Chinese 56.1 1,057 56.3 1,061 64.4 891 61.0 983 56.7 1,034
Mixed 70.8 1,982 71.3 2,078 72.3 2,002 67.5 2,159 67.9 2,179
White British 62.8 167,292 62.9 163,434 63.6 149,985 64.6 151,336 63.1 147,260
White other 65.8 9,898 65.3 10,189 66.8 9,671 65.3 9,654 63.4 9,580
Other 56.8 1,500 56.6 1,475 56.4 1,275 60.9 1,312 53.3 1,418

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity over time’ (CSV)

Summary of Physical activity By ethnicity over time Summary

The data shows that:

  • 61.4% of people aged 16 and over in England were physically active

  • people from a Mixed ethnic background were most likely to be physically active out of all ethnic groups (67.9%), followed by people from the White Other ethnic group (63.4%) – this has remained consistent for the last 5 years

  • the percentages of physically active people in the Asian, Black, Other and Chinese ethnic groups were lower than the national average, ranging from 49.5% to 56.7%

4. By ethnicity and gender

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over classed as ‘physically active’, by ethnicity and gender
Female Male Other gender
Ethnicity Female % Female Number of Respondents Male % Male Number of Respondents Other gender % Other gender Number of Respondents
All 60.1 97,869 63.0 78,967 48.5 449
Asian 46.2 4,016 51.9 3,780 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Black 48.5 1,597 59.6 1,044 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Chinese 53.9 637 60.1 389 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Mixed 67.2 1,305 68.7 858 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
White British 61.8 81,058 64.7 65,689 53.8 206
White other 63.4 5,703 63.6 3,833 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Other 51.9 769 55.0 638 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and gender’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and gender’ (CSV)

Summary of Physical activity By ethnicity and gender Summary

The data shows that:

  • 63.0% of men and 60.1% of women were physically active – 449 people identified as other gender, and of those 48.5% were physically active

  • in the Black, White British and Asian ethnic groups, men were more likely to be physically active than women – sample sizes were too small to make reliable generalisations in other ethnic groups

  • men from the Mixed ethnic group were more likely than average to be physically active (68.7%) – men from the Asian (51.9%) and Other (55.0%) ethnic groups were less likely than average to be active

  • women from the Mixed ethnic group were most likely to be physically active (67.2%) – women from the Asian, Black, Chinese and Other ethnic groups were less likely than average to be active

5. By ethnicity and age group

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over classed as ‘physically active’, by ethnicity and age group
16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65-74 75+
Ethnicity 16-24 % 16-24 Number of Respondents 25-34 % 25-34 Number of Respondents 35-44 % 35-44 Number of Respondents 45-54 % 45-54 Number of Respondents 55-64 % 55-64 Number of Respondents 65-74 % 65-74 Number of Respondents 75+ % 75+ Number of Respondents
All 70.1 11,924 65.7 23,606 64.3 26,921 65.5 29,528 61.8 33,984 57.3 32,426 37.6 17,758
Asian 55.2 1,165 46.9 1,720 49.0 2,177 48.1 1,340 49.0 694 49.3 458 35.5 225
Black 55.9 392 56.4 447 55.7 621 50.0 552 54.1 391 36.0 140 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Chinese 56.2 132 61.5 248 61.4 276 51.7 148 41.5 127 51.6 79 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Mixed 65.4 433 75.3 578 66.5 449 63.9 341 64.0 249 73.8 93 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
White British 75.6 8,528 69.1 17,227 69.0 19,426 68.3 24,322 62.9 30,343 57.7 29,926 37.7 16,391
White other 71.6 662 65.8 2,291 60.4 2,609 63.4 1,634 66.2 1,120 60.6 831 46.5 391
Other 59.9 161 59.2 259 46.7 340 51.9 291 51.3 186 54.9 129 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and age group’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and age group’ (CSV)

Summary of Physical activity By ethnicity and age group Summary

The data shows that:

  • people became less physically active the older they were – 70.1% of people aged 16 to 24 were physically active, compared with 37.6% of people aged 75 years and over

  • White British people had the biggest difference in physical activity levels between age groups – 75.6% of 16 to 24 year olds were physically active, compared with 37.7% of people aged 75 and over

  • the combined Asian ethnic group had the smallest difference between age groups – 55.2% of 16 to 25 year olds were physically active, compared with 48.1% of 45 to 54 year olds

  • in all age groups between 16 and 74 years old, people from the Asian and Black ethnic groups were less likely than average to be physically active (the number of people aged 75 and over was too small to make reliable generalisations)

  • in all age groups between 16 and 54 years old, White British people were more likely than average to be physically active – the number of people surveyed for the Mixed, Other and White Other ethnic groups in these age groups were too small to make reliable generalisations

6. By ethnicity and area

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over classed as ‘physically active’, by ethnicity and area
All Asian Black Chinese Mixed White British White other Other
Geography All % All Number of Respondents Asian % Asian Number of Respondents Black % Black Number of Respondents Chinese % Chinese Number of Respondents Mixed % Mixed Number of Respondents White British % White British Number of Respondents White other % White other Number of Respondents Other % Other Number of Respondents
East Midlands 60.2 21,242 53.1 738 48.3 252 68.7 81 62.4 217 61.4 18,417 58.5 846 43.2 90
East 61.5 22,797 50.4 711 51.7 316 55.5 112 66.7 273 62.8 19,155 61.4 1,328 50.8 151
London 62.3 16,364 51.1 2,232 54.6 971 65.3 314 71.9 490 67.9 8,229 66.9 2,584 55.7 468
North East 60.0 7,500 62.8 163 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 59.7 46 60.1 6,779 61.9 213 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
North West 59.0 26,961 43.2 1,182 49.8 288 45.4 170 65.7 288 60.8 23,026 61.1 964 41.7 190
South East 64.4 33,679 51.9 1,193 56.3 316 47.1 156 70.3 380 65.7 28,499 62.8 1,917 59.1 252
South West 65.7 15,906 52.5 178 67.7 73 46.8 58 70.2 139 66.4 14,326 64.6 639 70.9 55
West Midlands 57.0 16,328 48.3 934 48.2 263 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 59.4 195 59.2 13,716 58.4 596 39.3 84
Yorkshire and the Humber 59.8 16,958 41.1 493 48.9 143 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 64.5 151 61.5 15,113 59.7 493 57.5 81

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and area’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and area’ (CSV)

Summary of Physical activity By ethnicity and area Summary

The data shows that:

  • rates of physical activity were highest in the South West (65.7%), the South East (64.4%) and London (62.3%) – they were lowest in the West Midlands (57.0%) and the North West (59.0%)

  • people from Mixed ethnic backgrounds were more likely to be physically active than the average in all regions except for the North East, where the number of people surveyed from this group was too small to make reliable generalisations

  • people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than average to be physically active in all regions except for the North East

  • White British people were as or more likely than average to be physically active in all regions

  • in all regions except the South West and the North East, Black people were less likely to be physically active than the regional average – in the South West the percentage was higher than average, and in the North East the number of people surveyed was too small to make reliable generalisations

7. By ethnicity and socio-economic group

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over classed as ‘physically active’, by ethnicity and socio-economic group
Managerial and professional occupations Intermediate occupations and lower supervisory Routine and manual occupations Long term unemployed Full-time student or unclassified
Ethnicity Managerial and professional occupations % Managerial and professional occupations Number of Respondents Intermediate occupations and lower supervisory % Intermediate occupations and lower supervisory Number of Respondents Routine and manual occupations % Routine and manual occupations Number of Respondents Long term unemployed % Long term unemployed Number of Respondents Full-time student or unclassified % Full-time student or unclassified Number of Respondents
All 71.0 85,907 61.4 39,950 54.2 16,408 43.3 3,662 65.0 13,516
Asian 57.6 3,813 46.1 1,427 39.2 741 35.6 477 53.4 1,127
Black 58.8 1,245 47.2 477 56.8 273 42.3 123 54.2 449
Chinese 58.5 598 62.2 168 45.4 79 * * 55.1 153
Mixed 74.0 1,148 71.2 417 54.4 192 49.3 79 68.0 311
White British 72.9 70,736 63.3 34,391 56.1 13,564 45.5 2,532 70.6 9,235
White other 71.5 5,438 60.2 1,839 49.6 1,017 48.6 157 68.9 724
Other 61.6 705 51.9 265 57.4 118 32.6 85 51.7 196

Download table data for ‘By ethnicity and socio-economic group’ (CSV) Source data for ‘By ethnicity and socio-economic group’ (CSV)

Summary of Physical activity By ethnicity and socio-economic group Summary

The data shows that:

  • rates of physical activity were highest for people in managerial and professional occupations (71.0%) and full-time students (65.0%) – they were lowest for long-term unemployed people (43.3%)

  • in managerial and professional occupations, people from the White British ethnic group were more likely than average to be physically active (72.9%)

  • in managerial and professional occupations, and intermediate and lower supervisory occupations, people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely to be physically active than people from the White British, White Other, and Mixed ethnic groups

  • for all ethnic groups except Black and Other, physical activity went down for people in lower socio-economic classes

  • in routine and manual occupations, the Black and Other ethnic groups had higher levels of physical activity than the average

8. Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Publication frequency

Twice a year

Purpose of data source

The Active Lives Survey measures the number of people aged 16 and over who take part in sport and physical activity.

This data informs the government’s strategy on physical activity, Sporting Future, which looks at 5 aspects of physical activity:

  • physical well-being
  • mental well-being
  • individual development
  • social and community development
  • economic development

9. Download the data

Physical Activity Data 2015 to 2020 - Spreadsheet (csv) 639 KB

The file contains the following: measure, ethnicity, time period, geography, gender, age bracket, socio-economic group, physical activity level, value as a percentage of the population, population weighted numerators and denominators, and lastly confidence intervals (upper and lower).