The pandemic surge in adults exercising from home has seen a dip amid recent Covid-19 restrictions, according to a new Sport Ireland report.
The Irish Sports Monitor (ISM) 2021 quarter one report, which examined the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on sport and recreational walking from January to March of 2021, shows that overall levels of physical activity remain higher than 2019 figures.
The research, conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Sport Ireland, found that 76 per cent of adults walking for recreation during the period remains up from 65 per cent in 2019, but down from a high of 80 per cent seen during April to May of 2020.
The reduction in sports participation is a concern but I am confident that this will improve as we see the gradual reopening of facilities
The report found unprecedented gains made last year in outdoor activities such as running and cycling, as well as home-based personal exercise and weight training, have similarly receded.
Sports participation decreased to 35 per cent — the lowest level since 2007. This contrasts to one of the highest levels of sports participation recorded of 47 per cent in the same period of 2019.
The decrease was seen across all age groups and in both genders. 44 per cent of respondents reported having given up one or more sports or physical activities due to Covid-19.
Intend to return
However, the report also found that 89 per cent of people who have given up one or more sports or activities during the pandemic say they intend to return, once restrictions allow the return of indoor and organised sports.
Minister for Sport, Catherine Martin, said: “It is heartening to see the number of people walking is significantly ahead of 2019 figures and has remained so throughout the restrictions.
“The reduction in sports participation is a concern but I am confident that this will improve as we see the gradual reopening of facilities over the coming months. This optimism is reflected in the 89 per cent of respondents who say they will return to the activity they gave up as a result of Covid-19.”
The new research comes alongside Sport Ireland’s participation plan for 2021 to 2024, outlining how the organisation will continue to help people get active by removing barriers to participation in sport and physical activity in the coming years.
The participation plan will be delivered through local sports partnerships, national governing bodies, strategic partners, clubs, communities and individuals.
We must all continue to make sport and physical activity a part of our daily lives
Minister Martin said: “The Programme for Government set new and ambitious objectives for sport, most notably an increase in the participation goals from 50 per cent of adults regularly playing sport to 60 per cent by 2027.
“The launch of the plan today is a huge step towards achieving those targets. As we start to see the gradual return to sport with outdoor facilities re-opening and children returning to training, we must all continue to make sport and physical activity a part of our daily lives”.
Chief executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy said: “While the quarter one Irish Sports Monitor results show a decline in sport participation levels during Covid-19 restrictions, it is encouraging to see that the level of recreational walking has remained high.
“The last year has been very difficult for everyone and for the sports sector as whole. Sport Ireland and the sport sector is committed to helping everyone in Ireland get active and experience the incredible health benefits sport has to offer.
“Support from all departments across Government will be required if we are to create an environment and culture that lends itself to sport and physical activity... I look forward to working together with all involved to make an impactful change in the years to come”.