Record numbers of adults in Ireland participating in sport and walking

New Sport Ireland research shows a large increase in walking, running and cycling

The noticeable increase in people walking, running and cycling over the last few months has been backed up by new Sport Ireland findings which show that an unprecedented numbers of adults in Ireland are now engaging in some sort of exercise.

With the Covid-19 pandemic leading to a suspension of all organised sport as well as the closure of gyms and swimming pools, people have increased their activity levels with 51 per cent of the country currently participating in sport while an estimated 3.1 million people are regularly walking.

Research conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Sport Ireland – which was spread over five phases beginning on February 28th – shows that 710,000 people are regularly participating in the category of exercise, 680,000 people are running and 510,000 people are cycling.

The combined effect of it all means that, during the lockdown period, the levels of sedentary adults in the country has dropped to 11 per cent, compared to 22 per cent for the same time last year.


This is the lowest level of sedentarism ever recorded by Sport Ireland.

More than half of the adult population (52 per cent) report that they are engaging in sufficient levels of activity to meet the National Physical Activity Guidelines while 83 per cent of adults in the country are now walking recreationally. A particular jump in recreational walking – which could be largely attributed to gym closures and the suspension of organised sport – has been seen in the 15-24-years-old age category with 89 per cent now regularly walking, in comparison to 51 per cent before the crisis.

Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy also said that an encouraging point is the fairly equal levels of participation among men and women which means the gender gap is “now virtually non-existent”.

“Despite the restrictions in place around sports facilities, team sports and a number of other sporting activities, it is welcome to see that overall levels of participation are now greater than they were during the same period in 2019,” he said.

“It is really encouraging to see a strong uptake in recreational walking among those under the age of 35. During a period unprecedented in modern times, it is highly encouraging that Irish adults are seeking to look after their own health and well-being through taking part in regular sport and physical activity. The sports sector is continuing to innovate and support individuals in staying active in safe manner. We look forward to the controlled reintroduction of more sporting activity in line with the Government’s roadmap over the coming months.”