Fewer Irish young people taking part in sport

Economic recovery may have led some to sacrifice exercise, says Sport Ireland

A slight decline in the numbers of young people in the 16-24 age group taking part in sport is of "concern", the Irish Sports Council has said.

Some 67.9 per cent of young people participated in sport of some kind between May and October last year, according to figures published in the Sport Ireland Irish Sports Monitor mid-year report.

This fell from 70 per cent in a similar 2013 study, which itself showed a decline on 2011. Similar declines were seen for both males and females.

The council said further data would be gathered to allow a more in-depth exploration of any trend, and in particular any gender differences.


Sport Ireland suggested part of the reason for the decline shown in the latest report was that more people were returning to work due to improvements in the economic situation and that they were sacrificing some of their sporting activity due to busier lifestyles.

Some 1.7 million Irish adults aged 16 and over regularly take part in sport or exercise, the latest study found.

Activity decline

Between May and October, 46.3 per cent of people indicated they had taken part in sports in the previous seven days, a decline on the 48 per cent participation rate in 2013.

Exercise, running, swimming, cycling and soccer are the five most popular sporting activities among adults. Walking remains the most popular activity, with more than two-thirds of adults walking for recreation at least once in the previous week.

The 10 most popular forms of sporting activity were the same as in 2013, with the exception of yoga, which has become the 10th most popular form of activity. Some 7.1 per cent of people participated in cycling, up from 6.4 per cent in 2013.

Just over four out of 10 people said they had participated in an individual sport in the past seven days compared with 10.2 per cent participating in a team sport. More than half of all males (51.1 per cent) took part in sport in the previous seven days, compared with 41.6 per cent of females.

One in three adults are now meeting the National Physical Activity Guidelines through sport and recreational walking, and the proportion that is sedentary declined from 11.4 per cent to 10.8 per cent since 2013.

Participation in sport

The three Sports Monitor studies immediately prior to the current one indicated an increase in participation in sport. The 2013 report showed 47.2 per cent of the population had participated in sport in the previous seven days, up from 32.9 per cent in 2007.

The numbers cycling and walking for transport have also increased since 2013.

Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy said the latest figure of 10.8 per cent for those who are sedentary was the lowest since the Irish Sports Monitor was initiated in 2007.

“However we cannot afford to be complacent,” he said. “Following a number of years where we have seen increasing levels of involvement in sport, the current report has identified a slight decline in participation from 2013.

“Understanding the factors behind this decline will be important in allowing us to focus attention on specific groups that may be reducing their activity level.” The report is based on 4,292 respondents last year and 4,959 for the same period in 2013.