1. Main facts and figures

  • overall, in 2017/18, 62% of people aged 16 years and over in England were classed as ‘physically active’ – that is, 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 since 2015/16
  • people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than the overall average to be physically active – again, this has remained consistent since 2015/16
  • within the Asian and White British ethnic groups, men were more 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 is a ‘sample survey’: it collects information from a random sample of the population to make generalisations (reach 'findings') about the total population.

The commentary for this data only refers to differences between groups where they are 'statistically significant'. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.

Specifically, the statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.

Keep in mind when making comparisons between ethnic groups that all survey estimates are subject to a degree of uncertainty, as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for minority ethnic groups.

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 isn’t possible to say with confidence whether these differences are statistically significant.

Percentages may not add to 100 due to rounding

You can see figures for 2015/16 and 2016/17 if you download the data.

What the data measures

This data measures levels of physical activity among people aged 16 and over in England, and breaks this information down by ethnicity.

The data comes from Sport England’s Active Lives Survey.

People who do 150 minutes or more of moderate intensity equivalent (MIE) physical activity a week are classed as ‘physically active’.

People who do between 30 and 149 minutes a week of MIE physical activity a week are categorised as ‘fairly active’.

People who do less than 30 minutes a week of MIE physical activity are categorised as ‘physically inactive’.

MIE physical activity raises your heart rate and leaves you feeling a little out of breath.

Physical activity of vigorous intensity means you are breathing hard and fast and your heart rate has increased significantly.

For measuring physical activity levels, 1 minute of vigorous activity is the equivalent of 2 minutes of moderate activity.

The physical activities covered in the Active Lives Survey include:

  • sporting activities (team sports, racquet sports, swimming, bowls, fencing)
  • 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 – this data counts people from South Asian ethnic groups like Indian and Pakistani as ‘Asian’
  • Black
  • Chinese
  • Mixed
  • White British
  • White Other
  • Other

2. By ethnicity

Percentage of people aged 16 years and over who are ‘physically active’, ‘fairly active’, and ‘physically inactive’, by ethnicity
Physically active Fairly active Physically inactive
Ethnicity % Number of respondents % Number of respondents % Number of respondents
All 62% 185,732 12% 185,732 25% 185,732
Asian 55% 7,275 14% 7,275 31% 7,275
Black 57% 2,655 14% 2,655 29% 2,655
Chinese 60% 975 13% 975 26% 975
Mixed 71% 2,024 11% 2,024 18% 2,024
White British 63% 155,056 12% 155,056 24% 155,056
White other 66% 9,709 11% 9,709 23% 9,709
Other 57% 1,327 13% 1,327 30% 1,327

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, in 2017/18, 62% of people aged 16 and over in England were physically active
  • people with Mixed ethnicity were most likely to be physically active out of all ethnic groups (at 71%), followed by people from the White other ethnic group (at 66%)
  • the percentage of physically active people in the Asian, Black, Chinese and Other ethnic groups was lower than the national average, ranging from 55% to 60%

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 % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents
All 62 185,732 60 103,379 65 82,007
Asian 55 7,275 50 3,794 59 3,470
Black 57 2,655 54 1,601 60 1,048
Chinese 60 975 59 596 62 379
Mixed 71 2,024 70 1,238 73 779
White British 63 155,056 61 86,126 65 68,765
White other 66 9,709 64 5,841 67 3,854
Other 57 1,327 55 769 60 556

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, in 2017/18, 65% of men and 60% of women were classed as physically active
  • within the White British and Asian ethnic groups, men were more 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
  • among men, those with Mixed ethnicity were more likely than average to be physically active (at 73%), while those from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than average to be (at 59%)
  • among women, those with Mixed ethnicity were most likely to be physically active (at 70%), while those from the Asian, Black 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 % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents
All 76 11,628 68 23,178 66 28,899 65 31,499 60 35,126 57 35,307 35 18,385
Asian 66 977 55 1,592 54 2,156 49 1,165 47 649 44 455 32 221
Black 69 386 59 407 53 599 54 621 47 364 51 132 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
Chinese 66 151 63 248 54 250 59 133 50 128 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
Mixed 76 470 73 512 73 442 63 314 59 171 60 70 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
White British 78 8,514 71 16,887 70 21,109 67 26,472 61 31,531 58 32,633 35 16,867
White other 81 614 67 2,455 65 2,875 63 1,496 65 1,026 54 830 39 366
Other 70 125 63 234 48 373 58 240 50 174 61 122 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, people became less physically active the older they were – 76% of people aged 16 to 24 years were physically active, compared with 57% of those aged 65 to 74 years
  • in all age groups between 16 and 64 years, people from the Asian and Black ethnic groups were less likely than average to be physically active
  • in the age group from 65 to 74 years, people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than average to be physically active – the sample size for the Black ethnic group was too small to make reliable generalisations
  • in all age groups between 16 and 54 years, White British people were more likely than average to be physically active – the sample sizes for the Mixed 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 % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents
East Midlands 60 21,553 56 732 49 255 64 69 59 188 62 18,670 59 834 48 95
East 62 24,874 54 716 65 286 68 115 68 248 62 21,084 65 1,412 61 145
London 64 17,442 56 2,058 55 1,093 60 311 74 492 68 9,229 68 2,620 58 426
North East 60 8,349 51 148 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 63 48 60 63 61 7,580 57 210 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable
North West 61 26,571 53 1,028 54 261 65 122 73 261 62 22,963 63 911 54 154
South East 65 34,725 61 1,079 67 301 54 151 73 336 66 29,466 67 1,962 66 208
South West 67 20,556 48 161 70 67 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 79 157 67 18,736 69 730 52 66
West Midlands 58 17,282 52 918 54 243 58 68 64 162 59 14,556 64 621 56 102
Yorkshire and the Humber 61 14,380 53 435 55 108 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable 69 117 62 12,772 57 409 53 96

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, rates of physical activity were highest in the South West (at 67%), the South East (at 65%) and London (at 64%); they were lowest in the West Midlands (at 58%), and the North East and the East Midlands (both at 60%)
  • people from a Mixed background were more physically active than average in London, the North West, the South East, and the South West
  • in 6 regions (the East, London, the North West, the South West, Yorkshire and the Humber, and the West Midlands), people from the Asian ethnic group were less likely than the average for these regions to be physically active

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 % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents % Number of Respondents
All 71 90,455 62 42,837 56 17,677 49 3,572 70 12,806
Asian 59 3,468 50 1,334 48 748 42 478 64 1,026
Black 61 1,178 52 495 53 292 43 151 64 448
Chinese 66 526 45 189 45 69 withheld because a small sample size makes it unreliable * 67 155
Mixed 74 1,042 69 356 68 195 62 66 75 332
White British 73 75,262 63 37,095 57 14,695 51 2,416 73 8,721
White other 71 5,519 61 1,972 58 1,021 58 152 75 679
Other 64 626 62 232 43 138 37 89 64 201

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • overall, rates of physical activity were highest among people in managerial and professional occupations (at 71%), followed by full-time students (at 70%); they were lowest among the long-term unemployed (at 49%)
  • among people in managerial and professional occupations, White British people were more likely than average to be physically active
  • among people in managerial and professional occupations, intermediate and lower supervisory occupations, and routine and manual occupations, those from the Asian ethnic group were less likely to be physically active than those from the White British, White other and Mixed ethnic groups (small sample sizes for the Chinese group make these results less reliable)

7. Methodology

The Active Lives Survey involves up to 4 postal mail-outs designed to encourage participants to complete the survey online. A letter is sent to a household inviting up to 2 people per household to take part in the survey, either online or by requesting a paper version of the questionnaire.

The overall sample size is just under 200,000 people each year. The survey sample is randomly selected from the Royal Mail’s Postal Address File, 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.

Weighting:

Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy.

For example, a survey which contains 25% women and 75% men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know has an even 50/50 split.

Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable.

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

Suppression rules and disclosure control

Results are not published when they're based on fewer than 30 respondents.

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 2017/2018 Year 3 Technical Note (PDF)

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 - Spreadsheet (csv) 372 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, activity level, year, geography, gender, age, socio-economic status, value, denominator, numerator, upper CI, lower CI and number of respondents