Leisure and Recreation Participation Studies

International and national studies provide a useful overview of the popularity of various leisure and recreation activities.This data becomes useful when compared with regional and local information to provide an understanding of local provision requirements.

Global participation in sport and leisure-time physical activities

The most popular leisure-time physical activities across six global regions have been collated by Hulteen et al. (2017) and are presented in Table 8.1. This is one of few studies at this level, but there are unfortunately, still major data gaps for most regions. In fact, because of the limited data collection programs in some countries, what is presented may not be representative of each region. As such, the ability to draw conclusions and implications from the data is limited, although it does provide insights that could be usefully compared with data from individual countries.

• There were relatively low levels of participation in physical activities across all regions and ages. In fact, a number of the top five activities for each age group and region had participation rates of less than

Table 8.1 The percentage of the adult, adolescent and child population who pursue the top five leisure time physical activities across six world regions

Africa

Americas

Eastern

Mediterranean

Europe

SEAsia

Western Pacific

Activity

A

Ad

Ch*

A

Ad

Ch

A

Ad

Ch*

A

Ad

Ch*

A

Ad*

Ch*

A

Ad

Ch

Walking

18.9

15.0

56.0

10.0

39.3

41.8

10.8

31.1

Cycling

2.2

14.3

4.9

5.2

5.6

7.1

9.1

23.5

Running

9.3

8.5

11.9

39.9

7.9

8.4

11.1

13.3

21.0

38.1

Soccer

9.8

5.7

30.6

39.0

14.8

3.3

10.0

29.0

28.5

1.1

Resistance training

5.2

12.4

6.6

5.0

Basketball

5.2

15.4

6.6

5.0

8.8

24.5

Netball

5.1

2.3

Tennis

2.8

Swimming

6.2

14.9

15.7

6.4

32.0

7.9

9.0

10.3

4.4

17.7

33.9

Volleyball

14.4

13.5

7.1

Athletics

20.9

Rugby

1.5

Bowling

23.0

Baseball

Gymnastics

16.9

10.8

8.1

Source: Adapted from 'Global Participation in Sport and Leisure-Time Physical Activities: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis’, by RM Hutton, JJ Smith, PJ Morgan, LM Barnett, PC Hallal, K Colyvas, & DR Lubans 2017, Preventive Medicine, 95, pp. 17-21. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2O16.11.027. Copyright 2016 Elsevier Inc.

A - Adult; Ad - Adolescent; Ch - Children; * No data available.

  • 10 percent (except for children and adolescents in the Americas and children in the Western Pacific).
  • • There were relatively low levels of participation in team sports with only soccer being popular in at least two age groups across all six regions.
  • • There were some notable differences between regions. Walking, running, swimming and soccer were among the most commonly pursued activities regardless of geographic region and age group, yet netball and tennis were among the top five activities in Africa but not in other regions.
  • • There was significant variability between the top five activities in the three regions with data on adolescent and child participation. Adolescents and children were involved in 10 different activities with only basketball and swimming being among the top five activities in the three regions for which there was data.
  • • The non-structured activities of walking, cycling, running and swimming were all highly represented and as such highlight the popularity of non-organised activities, particularly for adults across all parts of the world.

The overall data suggest that there are low levels of active team sports involvement but high levels of engagement in individual physical activity across all the regions of the world. This may mean that people of all ages prefer to participate when and where they want rather than being committed to a time and place dictated by a structured team program. In turn, this may indicate that leisure and recreation planners may need to provide more physical activities in casual settings and not only in formal structured settings. The data also highlight a possible need to develop and/or better promote team-based participation opportunities, and that planners should seek to understand the constraints on team-based participation. Is it related to community and individual interests or supply of facilities? If there is little community interest, efforts to encourage greater participation, however good the intentions and outcomes, may be a waste of resources and effort.

The gaps in Table 8.1 data are a concern and reduce the value of the information from a planning perspective, particularly for children. Anecdotal evidence suggests that children who are encouraged to be physically active at a young age are more likely to continue being active in their adult years and thereby gain the associated health and personal benefits. As a consequence, governments and other community' development agencies should be encouraged to collect detailed participation data on leisure and recreation participation in order to understand and plan for children’s leisure and recreation activities and to guide development of active leisure and recreation opportunities.

 
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