-The report found 36% of adults could not afford to be active
-Sport England survey reveals 29% had less time to exercise
The cost of living crisis has had a negative effect on the ability of more than a third of adults in England to be active, according to a new report from Sport England, with deprived areas being hit hardest. The report, which surveyed nearly 3,000 people, found that 36% reported they could not afford to be active while 29% said they had less time to exercise, often as a result of having to work more.
“People from the most deprived areas and lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to say their levels of physical activity have been negatively affected by cost of living increases,” the report states.
Almost three-quarters of respondents, 71%, said they had changed the type of sport and physical activity since the cost of living crisis began, with many substituting paid activities, such as gym and sports memberships, for free activities such as walking or cycling.
The report, which was produced in conjunction with Sheffield Hallam University, paints a similarly stark picture when it comes to children. “Parents and carers of children and young people said they were making changes to their children’s sport and physical activities because of cost of living increases,” it says. “The types of changes were similar to those reported by adults, ie increasing the number of free activities, walking or cycling to get to places and cancelling membership to specific sports activities.”
The report states these changes are unlikely to be reversed until household finances improve and also warns that rising energy costs are hitting sports clubs, gyms and swimming pools hard, with prices rising and membership levels falling.
However, Sport England’s chief strategy officer, Nick Pontefract, said there were still reasons for optimism given that overall activity levels had not fallen and club activities were now nearing pre-Covid levels. “Today’s report shows that in common with much of the economy, the cost of living is impacting the affordability of physical activity and sport, particularly for the most disadvantaged,” he said.
“While these headwinds inevitably impact all areas of life including work to increase physical activity and participation, the sector has been remarkably resilient and creative in sustaining opportunities for people to keep active.
“We also know there are plenty of low- and no-cost options for getting active, whether that’s running for free with Parkrun, using outdoor gym equipment that can be found in many parks or simply going for a walk.”
In response, UK Active’s chief executive Huw Edwards said: “The continuing cost of living challenges we face have had an impact on the physical activity sector and the community it serves. Sport England’s report reinforces ukactive’s historic analysis that in some cases, energy costs have increased by over 200% for both public and private operators. Without the right financial support, some operators have been left with no choice but to raise membership prices to stay afloat.
“There are a range of cost-effective memberships available at budget gyms and local leisure centres to suit people from all backgrounds, starting from as little as £4 a week. Many operators have also adapted their offering to include shorter memberships for people to try before signing.