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Not all activities have increased in popularity, with participation in walking for exercise decreasing from 25% in 2005-06 to 23% in 2009-10, and participation in swimming (including diving) decreasing from 9% to 7%.
Cycling (including BMXing) has retained its popularity over time, with 6% of people participating in 2005-06 and 7% in 2009-10.
PARTICIPATION IN 2009-10
In 2009-10, aerobics, fitness or gym activities, swimming (including diving) and walking for exercise were all more popular with women than they were with men. The difference in participation rates for men and women in walking for exercise was the most noticeable, with proportionally nearly twice as many women as men participating in this activity (30% compared with 16%). The difference in participation in aerobics, fitness or going to gym was also noticeable (17% of women compared with 11% of men), while there was only a slight difference in men's and women's participation rates for swimming (8% of women compared with 6% of men).
The activities which were more popular with men in 2009-10 were cycling and BMXing, jogging and running, and weight training. The most noticeable difference was between the participation rates of men and women in cycling and BMXing (8% and 5% respectively), while the differences in participation in jogging and running (7% and 6%) and weight training (2% and 1%) were smaller.
WALKING FOR EXERCISE 2009-10
Walking for exercise was the most popular activity in 2009-10, with an overall participation rate of 23%. Its popularity may be due to the fact that it can be done at minimal cost (excepting the cost of some comfortable shoes) and is suitable for people of all abilities and ages. There are also a number of initiatives aimed at encouraging people to walk more, such as the Heart Foundation's Walking program, which supports community-based social walking groups (Endnote 4) and the 10,000 Steps project which encourages people to log their steps and aim for at least 10,000 steps a day (Endnote 5). Walking for exercise is discussed here, separate from the other activities, due to its relatively high participation rate.
Walking for exercise was most popular with people who participated in sport and physical recreation who were in the older age groups of 55 to 64 years (56%) and 65 years and over (55%). Perhaps as a result of this, it was also popular with participants who were not in the labour force (46%), given the high proportion of retirees in this category. Low to middle income earners were the most likely to participate in walking (48% from the second quintile and 40% from the third). Similar proportions of people participated from couple only and lone person households (both 44%), while fewer people participated who were in couple families with dependent children (31%) or in one parent families (32%).
Fewer people who lived in major cities of Australia participated in walking for exercise (35%) than people who lived in inner regional Australia or in outer regional Australia (both 39%).
A high percentage of people who walked for exercise reported that they had participated in all months of the year prior to interview (89%). Nearly two thirds of walkers participated 105 times or more, or on average, at least twice weekly (60%). Most of people's participation in walking for exercise was only non-organised (96%), with 1% of participants reporting that they had participated only in organised walking.
PARTICIPATION IN OTHER ACTIVITIES 2009-10
Fitness programs for older adults were identified as a current fitness trend by the American College of Sports Medicine in its 2011 Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends (Endnote 6). The survey found that this has been one of the top ten fitness trends since 2007 due to the increasing number of baby boomers reaching retirement age, who may have more time and discretionary funds to spend on their health and fitness. It would seem that there is some opportunity for gyms and fitness centres to capitalise on this. Looking at people who participated in sport and physical recreation, only 17% who were aged 55 to 64 years, and 15% of people aged 65 years and over, chose to participate in aerobics, fitness or gym activities in 2009-10.
Aerobics, fitness and gym activities were particularly popular with people aged 15 to 24 years (25%) and 25 to 34 years (28%), while cycling was most popular with people aged 35 to 44 years (15%) and 45 to 54 years (13%).
Jogging and running was also popular with people in the younger to middle age groups. Those most likely to participate were people aged 25 to 34 years and 35 to 44 years (both 16%) followed by people who were aged 15 to 24 years (11%). The proportion of people who participated in jogging and running who were aged 45 to 54 years (8%) was half that of the younger to middle age groups. The lowest proportions of participants in this activity were people aged 55 to 64 years (3%) and 65 years and over (1%).
Similar percentages of people aged 25 to 34 years (12%), 35 to 44 years (15%) and 45 to 54 years (13%) participated in swimming and diving.
Weight training, while only enjoyed by a small proportion (3%) of people who participated in sport and physical recreation, was most popular with people in the younger age groups.
Labour force status
Working long hours can sometimes make it difficult for people to find the time to join a sporting club and make a commitment to attend regular training sessions and matches. The flexibility of activities such as jogging, running and cycling means that they can be done before or after work, or at any time that is convenient to the individual. Alternately, attending a scheduled aerobics or fitness class at a gym or fitness centre may make it easier for people to set aside time to exercise.
Nearly a quarter of people who were employed full-time who participated in sport and physical recreation in 2009-10 participated in aerobics, fitness or gym activities (23%). The proportions of full-time workers who participated in cycling and BMXing (13%) compared with jogging and running (14%) were similar. Slightly fewer participated in swimming and diving (12%).
People who were employed part-time who participated in sport and physical recreation had a relatively high rate of participation in aerobics, fitness or gym activities (26%), and lower participation rates in jogging and running (10%) and cycling and BMXing (9%).
Similar proportions of unemployed people who participated in sport and physical recreation chose to participate in aerobics, fitness or gym activities and swimming and diving (both 12%). Those who were not in the labour force (which includes a high proportion of people in the older age groups) were also most likely to participate in these activities (18% in aerobics, fitness or gym and 11% in swimming and diving).
Weekly personal income
People who participated in sport and physical recreation in the last 12 months, who were also in the highest weekly personal income quintile, had the highest level of participation in most of the selected activities. They were most likely to participate in aerobics, fitness or gym activities (25%), followed by cycling and BMXing (17%), jogging and running (16%) and swimming and diving (14%).
Interestingly, similar proportions of participants who were in the other weekly personal income quintiles, participated in swimming and diving (all around 11%). People in the second quintile were least likely to have participated in jogging and running (5%), while cycling and BMXing was least popular with people in the lowest (6%) and third and second quintiles (both 7%).
Having access to facilities such as gyms and fitness centres may have an impact on whether people are able to participate in certain physical activities. For people living outside of the metropolitan area it may be more difficult to get to facilities such as swimming pools, or there may be limited paths or tracks that are suitable for cycling or running.
People living in major cities of Australia who participated in sport and physical recreation were most likely to have participated in aerobics, fitness and going to the gym (24%). They were also the most likely to have participated in swimming and diving (13%). Similar proportions of people living in inner regional and in outer regional/remote areas also participated in this activity (9% and 10% respectively). People living in major cities of Australia also had a higher rate of participation in jogging and running (12%) compared with people living in the inner regional, and outer regional/remote areas (7% and 8% respectively).
The area that people lived in did not appear to affect their participation in cycling or BMXing, with 10% of people in each area participating in this activity.
Months of participation
It takes a certain amount of determination to get out of bed on a cold winter's morning to go for a jog in the rain. Luckily, if you have membership at a gym or fitness centre, or if you have your own treadmill at home, it is something that you can do indoors, making it easier to participate all year round. Many of the activities featured in this article are flexible in this way, so it comes as no surprise that the proportions of people who participated in these activities for all months of the year are fairly high.
Participation in all months of the year in jogging and running (73%) and weight training (70%) was particularly high, as was participation in aerobics, fitness and gym activities (65%) and cycling and BMXing (66%). It is interesting to note that swimming and diving was the activity that people were least likely to have participated in throughout the year (39%).
Organised and non-organised participation
Continuing advances in technology may well be having an influence on the way that people participate in different fitness activities. The availability of nearly 3,000 fitness applications for iPhones and iPods was identified as a key trend having impact on the fitness industry in 2010 as they give people access to a range of 'self-service' fitness programs and the ability to keep track of their own progress and activity (Endnote 7).
The ABS survey of Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation collects information about whether people's participation in different sports and physical recreation activities was organised by a club or association. The club or association may not necessarily be a sporting body, it may be a social club, church group, old scholars association or gymnasium. Participation in the activities featured in this article was most likely to be non-organised. Cycling and BMXing, jogging and running and swimming and diving had similar proportions of people whose only participation was non-organised (all around 90%). Aerobics, fitness and gym activities (25%) and weight training (14%) had the highest proportions of people whose only participation was organised.
Number of times
The tendency of people to participate in some activities only few times a year may indicate that the activity is more likely to have been done for recreation or enjoyment, rather than for maintaining fitness. People may go for a bike ride with friends when the weather is fine, or make a trip to the beach for a swim. Major events, such as the Tour de France, or more locally, the Tour Down Under may also raise people's interest in a certain activity for a short period of time.
The 2009-10 survey of Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation found that nearly a quarter of people who participated in cycling and BMXing, or in swimming and diving did so only 1 to 12 times in the year prior to interview (both 22%). Of the people who participated in cycling and BMXing, a slightly higher proportion (26%) participated 105 or more times, or on average, at least twice per week. The lower proportion of participants in swimming and diving who participated for 105 or more times over the year (17%) is consistent with the significant drop in participation in this activity during the winter months.
The high proportion of people who participated in aerobics, fitness and gym activities, jogging and running, and weight training for 105 times or more (or at least twice weekly) indicate that these activities are potentially more popular with people who are looking to improve or maintain their fitness through regular exercise. People who participated in weight training were the most likely to have participated 105 or more times (51%), followed by people who participated in aerobics, fitness or gym activities and people who participated in jogging and running (both 42%).
1. Australian Government 2011, Measure Up, Accessed 19 August 2011, <http://www.measureup.gov.au/internet/abhi/publishing.nsf/content/home>.
2. Australian Government 2011, Swap it don't stop it, Accessed 15 July 2011, <http://swapit.gov.au/>.
3. Fitness Australia 2011, 2008 Fitness Industry Report, Accessed 18 July 2011, <http://www.myvirtualpaper.com/doc/Fitness-Australia/2008_Fitness_Industry_Profile_Report/2009052601/#0>.
4. Heart Foundation 2011, Walking, Accessed 18 July 2011, <http://www.heartfoundation.org.au/active-living/walking/Pages/welcome.aspx>.
5. Queensland Health 2011, 10,000 steps, Accessed 18 July 2011, <http://www.10000steps.org.au/>.
6. Thompson, WR, Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2011, American College of Sports Medicine's Health & Fitness Journal, November/December 2010; Vol. 14, No. 6, pp 8-17.
7. Ezypay 2011, The 10 Top Consumer Trends Impacting the Fitness Industry in 2010, Accessed 20 July 2011, <http://www.ezypay.com.au/downloads/file/NewsAndResources/FitnessTrendReport2010.pdf>.
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