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Sports and physical activity


According to recent research, physical activity levels for Australians are declining. This is partly due to the sedentary nature of many forms of work and leisure activities, such as watching television or using computers, as well as changes in transportation.

Many Australians are not active enough to gain the health benefits of increased fitness, including reduced body fat, and risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. In 2006–07, the estimated direct healthcare costs due to physical inactivity were almost $1.5 billion.

Activity patterns of Australians

In 2011, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released a snapshot of the physical activity patterns of Australian adults, based on an analysis of data from the 2007–08 National Health Survey.

The snapshot showed that:

  • Around 62 per cent of Australians adults did not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines.
  • A higher proportion of women than men were not meeting the guidelines (64 per cent and 60 per cent respectively).
  • The proportion of people who did not meet the guidelines was highest in older adults – those aged 75 years and over (76 per cent).
  • Almost 40 per cent of adults did no exercise during the previous week.
  • Women and older Australian adults were more likely to walk for exercise than men, while men were more likely to undertake moderate and vigorous exercise.
  • Adults with a higher education level (those who had competed year 12 (or equivalent), or had higher education qualifications), were more likely to meet the physical activity guidelines than those who had a lower education level (those who had completed year 11 or lower and had no post-school qualifications).

Physical activity and organised sports

In 2009–2010, around a quarter of Australians aged 15 years and over were involved in organised sports and physical activity. Men were more likely to be involved in organised sports than women (29 per cent versus 24 per cent). Participation decreased with age.

Popular sports and activities for adults

The most popular sports and activities for Australians adults are:

  • walking
  • aerobics, fitness or gym activities
  • swimming or diving
  • cycling
  • jogging or running
  • golf
  • tennis
  • netball
  • bushwalking
  • soccer.
Popular sports and activities for children

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, popular sports for children aged 5-14 include:

  • for girls – dancing, swimming/diving, netball, gymnastics, basketball, soccer (outdoor), tennis, martial arts, athletics (track and field), horse riding (equestrian and polo), hockey
  • for boys – soccer (outdoor), swimming/diving, Australian Rules football, basketball, cricket (outdoor), tennis, martial arts, Rugby League, Rugby Union. dancing, athletics (track and field).

Other popular activities for both girls and boys include bike riding, rollerblading and skateboarding.


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