Experience of sport by adults and young people

Date published: 26 October 2017

The Department for Communities (DfC) today released reports on experience in sport by adults and young people.

Statistical graphic

Main findings:


In 2016/17, the proportion of adults who had participated in sport in the last 12 months was similar to the previous year’s figure (54% and 53% respectively). This is also consistent with the longer term trend.

‘Swimming or diving’, ‘Keepfit, Aerobics, Yoga, Dance exercise’, ‘jogging’ and ‘cycling for recreation’ continue to be the most popular sports amongst adults.

The proportion of adults who were members of a sports club within the previous year was greater than the previous year’s figures but still in keeping with the longer term trend.

Six out of every ten adults (60%) who had participated in sport cited “Improved health” as a benefit of participating.  Other benefits of participating that were stated by respondents include “Have fun” (56%), “Improved my feeling of wellbeing” (54%) and “Lose weight” (41%).

Young people:

In 2016, almost all young people (99%) had taken part in sport or physical activity at least once within the year.  Over nine out of every ten (96%) young people had been involved in sport or physical activity within the last week.  Both figures were consistent with the 2013 results.

Boys were more likely to state that they enjoyed sport or physical activity a lot (76%) than girls (57%). 

As may be expected, the most frequently cited benefits of having participated in sport or physical activity were “having fun”; “keeping fit”; “learning new skills or developing existing skills”; and “improving health”. It is interesting to note that in addition, around half of young people said that participating in sport or physical activity helped “develop their confidence” and helped “develop their skills as a team player”.

Just over seven out of every ten (73%) young people described themselves as being “very” active, with 58% stating that they ate healthily.  However, combining these behaviours shows that almost two fifths (38%) stated that they both ate healthily and were very active.

The publications are available on the DfC website.

Requests or enquiries concerning these statistics should be directed to:

Analytical Services Unit
Department for Communities
Lighthouse Building
Gasworks Business Park
Tel: 028 9082 9255
Email: asu@communities-ni.gov.uk

Notes to editors: 

  1. The report on adult experience of sport presents findings from the 2016/17 Continuous Household Survey which is an annual Northern Ireland wide household survey.  The report on experience of sport by young people presents findings from the 2016 Young Persons’ Behaviour and Attitudes Survey which is a triennial school based survey of Years 8-12.  Further information on the surveys, including sample design and response rates, is included in Definitions and technical notes of the statistical bulletins.
  2. The reports provide information on trends over time in experience and participation across the various components of sport including key findings relating to differences in participation rates among adults living in the most and least deprived areas of Northern Ireland. The bulletin includes key statistics participation in sport; enjoyment of sport; and time spent taking part in sport.  Analysis is presented by Section 75 groups and by the area in which people live (urban/rural and by deprivation).
  3. All media queries should be directed to the Department for Communities Press Office on 028 9082 3516 or email press.office@communities-ni.gov.uk.  Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

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