How Australians’ participation
in sport and physical activity
is adapting to COVID-normal

Sport Australia has today released their latest Ausplay report which starts to build a picture of Australians’ participation in sport and physical activity as we adapt to COVID-normal. Well worth a read for anyone involved in the sector but looking across the period 2019-2021, there are a range of interesting findings:
– The average number of activities per person aged 15+ has increased from 2.01 to 2.40 indicating that Australians are embracing a greater mix of activities
– Physically distanced or home based activities are continuing to increase in popularity
– Exergaming becomes a top 20 activity for Australians aged 15+
– The social and mental health benefits of exercise continue to increase in importance. 37% motivated by social benefits (up from 30% in 2019) and 30% motivated by mental health benefits (up from 21% in 2019)

Other important findings include:
– In 2021, fewer Australians aged 15+ were getting active exclusively through sporting clubs than pre-pandemic and are instead supplementing club or venue based participation with more unstructured activities.
– Use of wearable and other exercise technology has continued to increase
– The use of public space to participate has increased from 6% of Australians aged 15+ to 11% in 2021 reflecting the increased take up of those activities that can be performed outdoors and physically distanced.
– The proportion of women participating 7+ times per week remains higher than pre-pandemic levels (28%) whereas the proportion of men has remained static (24%).
– The proportion of children participating in organised out of school activity remains significantly lower than pre-pandemic. The proportion of children participating 3+ times per week in sport related activities has decreased from 20% in 2019 to 12% in 2021. 1+ times per week participation decreased from 55% to 39% over the same period.
– Looking at club based sport, most current players (and those who played before COVID-19 but haven’t yet returned) say they intend to play in the next 12 months – 88% men and 89% women.
– Volunteers – there is evidence to suggest that the proportion of volunteers doing just one role has declined while those doing three or more has increased. It is estimated that in 2021, there were 75,000 fewer Australians 15+ taking on officials roles and 73,000 fewer performing ad hoc tasks.

These statistics provide valuable insights for the sector, and pose interesting questions as to whether some of these trends are here to stay or whether they will continue to normalise back towards pre-pandemic levels.