Physical activity

Published

1. Main facts and figures

  • from November 2018 to November 2019, 63.3% 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 4 years
  • people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than average to be physically active – again, this has remained consistent for the last 4 years
  • within the Black ethnic group, men were more likely to be active than women
  • within the 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
Things you need to know

Sport England’s Active Lives Survey collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations about the total population.

The commentary for this data only refers to differences between groups where they are reliable ('statistically significant'). Findings are statistically significant when we are confident that they can be repeated, and reflect the total population rather than just the people who were surveyed. Read more about how we use confidence intervals to judge the reliability of data.

In some cases, charts and tables show a difference between ethnic groups, men and women, regions, or age groups, and no commentary is given. This is because it is not possible to say with confidence whether these differences are statistically significant.

Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding.

You can download the data for figures from November 2015 to November 2019.

What the data measures

This 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’re out of breath or are sweating. For 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 (team sports, racquet sports, swimming, bowls, fencing etc)
  • fitness activities (gym session, fitness class, weights)
  • cycling for sport and leisure
  • cycling for travel
  • walking for travel
  • walking for leisure
  • dance
The ethnic categories used in this data

Sports England used the following broad ethnic categories when analysing data from the Active Lives Survey:

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

2. By ethnicity over time

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

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 in the year to November 2019:

  • 63.3% of people aged 16 and over in England were physically active
  • people with a Mixed ethnicity were most likely to be physically active out of all ethnic groups (67.5%), followed by people from the White Other ethnic group (65.3%) - this has remained consistent for the last 4 years
  • the percentage of physically active people in the Asian, Black, Chinese and Other ethnic groups was lower than the national average, ranging from 53.9% to 61.0%

3. By ethnicity and gender

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over classed as ‘physically active’, by ethnicity and gender
All Female Male
Ethnicity All % All Number of Respondents Female % Female Number of Respondents Male % Male Number of Respondents
All 63.3 181,535 61.5 100,647 65.3 80,135
Asian 53.9 7,304 49.1 3,853 57.9 3,418
Black 57.7 2,524 52.9 1,502 63.8 1,007
Chinese 61.0 983 57.4 591 65.1 389
Mixed 67.5 2,159 65.0 1,355 71.3 787
White British 64.6 151,336 63.0 83,826 66.4 67,123
White other 65.3 9,654 65.5 5,722 65.0 3,887
Other 60.9 1,312 56.6 737 66.1 561

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, in the year to November 2019:

  • 65.3% of men and 61.5% of women were physically active
  • in the White British and Asian ethnic groups, men were more likely to be physically active than women
  • in the Black ethnic group, men were more likely to be active than women – sample sizes were too small to make reliable generalisations in other ethnic groups
  • among men, those with a Mixed ethnicity were more likely than average to be physically active (71.3%) – men from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than average to be active (57.9%)
  • among women, those in the White other ethnic group were most likely to be physically active (65.5%) – women from the Asian, Black, Chinese and Other ethnic groups were less likely than average to be active

4. 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 74.1 11,329 67.1 23,335 65.8 28,286 66.3 30,982 62.1 34,745 59.8 33,552 40.5 17,715
Asian 64.4 1,059 51.3 1,543 50.8 2,227 51.0 1,224 48.8 614 50.0 406 34.4 199
Black 64.9 340 54.0 408 57.8 596 63.7 550 52.5 373 44.1 146 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Chinese 71.8 145 64.9 262 46.7 230 58.4 146 49.7 107 60.0 59 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Mixed 72.3 427 68.0 545 64.0 488 66.7 342 62.5 220 46.2 84 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
White British 77.9 8,148 70.5 17,321 70.3 20,697 68.1 25,860 63.0 31,010 60.4 30,927 40.9 16,324
White other 74.4 681 67.0 2,228 62.6 2,723 65.3 1,597 67.9 1,199 63.4 821 40.5 365
Other 68.6 132 66.3 226 57.7 323 56.7 255 57.9 190 55.6 122 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:

  • overall, people became less physically active the older they were – 74.1% of people aged 16 to 24 years were physically active, compared with 40.5% of people aged 75 years and over
  • in all age groups between 16 and 74 years, people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than average to be physically active
  • in all age groups between 16 and 45 years, people from the Black ethnic group were less likely than average to be physically active
  • in all age groups between 16 and 64 years, 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

5. 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 61.4 21,290 54.8 701 45.3 230 75.7 88 67.7 196 62.5 18,484 56.6 907 65.6 93
East 62.6 23,767 56.7 699 65.3 277 57.4 115 68.2 275 63.0 20,094 61.2 1,310 57.4 151
London 64.5 16,148 53.8 1,962 60.0 983 65.7 265 67.4 520 70.0 8,424 68.2 2,431 61.7 443
North East 60.7 7,535 52.3 168 79.0 54 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 62.1 59 61.3 6,731 65.2 215 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
North West 62.3 26,908 52.0 1,175 49.6 307 50.4 124 64.9 237 63.6 23,058 65.6 1,022 59.9 155
South East 65.9 33,262 58.5 1,051 56.1 287 56.5 148 74.4 380 66.7 28,183 67.0 1,905 59.0 210
South West 67.4 19,541 64.8 217 45.7 71 72.9 63 67.8 149 67.7 17,662 66.0 757 63.2 73
West Midlands 58.7 16,268 52.4 859 55.1 199 57.1 72 55.4 187 60.3 13,773 58.6 565 56.8 87
Yorkshire and the Humber 62.5 16,816 47.9 472 54.2 116 42.0 61 72.9 156 64.0 14,927 67.0 542 75.7 60

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:

  • overall, rates of physical activity were highest in the South West (67.4%), the South East (65.9%) and London (64.5%) – they were lowest in the West Midlands (58.7%) and the North East (60.7%)
  • people from a Mixed ethnic background were more likely to be physically active than average in the South East, and Yorkshire and the Humber
  • in 7 regions (the East, the East Midlands, London, the North West, the South East, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the West Midlands), people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely to be physically active than the average for these regions
  • in 5 regions (London, East Midlands, the North West, the South East and the South West) people from the Black ethnic group were less likely to be physically active than the average for these regions

6. 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 72.0 89,414 62.6 41,050 55.6 16,627 48.0 3,599 71.3 11,878
Asian 59.1 3,630 47.1 1,241 47.2 700 42.0 508 62.6 1,000
Black 60.9 1,155 59.4 473 56.3 258 43.2 139 62.2 393
Chinese 64.1 569 54.4 133 38.7 65 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 69.0 161
Mixed 74.1 1,162 59.2 371 54.6 184 45.5 84 73.5 307
White British 73.6 74,272 64.3 35,573 56.7 13,849 50.9 2,451 75.7 7,977
White other 72.4 5,467 60.2 1,993 54.7 959 61.1 149 75.1 689
Other 66.3 662 60.8 239 51.7 110 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 69.8 173

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:

  • overall, rates of physical activity were highest for people in managerial and professional occupations (72.0%) and full-time students (71.3%) – they were lowest for long-term unemployed people (48.0%)
  • in managerial and professional occupations, people from the White British ethnic group were more likely than average to be physically active (73.6%)
  • 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, Other and Mixed ethnic groups

7. Methodology

Up to 2 people per household take part in the Active Lives Survey.

The overall sample size is just under 200,000 people each year. The sample is randomly selected from a list of addresses in the UK maintained by the Royal Mail.

Weighting is used to adjust the results to make them representative of the population.

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

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Results based on fewer than 30 respondents are not published.

Rounding

Estimates in the charts and tables are given to the nearest whole number but all gaps and differences have been calculated on unrounded data.

You can download more detailed estimates (to 1 decimal place) if you download the data.

Related publications

Sporting Future - A New Strategy for an Active Nation.

Quality and methodology information

Further technical information

Active Lives Survey 2018/19 Year 4 Technical Note (PDF opens in a new window or tab) (PDF, 340KB, 13 pages)

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.

9. Download the data

Physical Activity data - Spreadsheet (csv) 491 KB

This file contains the following: measure, ethnicity, year, age group, socio-economic group, geography, sex, value, denominator, numerator, confidence intervals (upper bound, lower bound), number of respondents