Analysis of ABS data released last month shows that 2 in 5 (40%) Australians aged over 15 have not participated in any sport or physical recreation even once in the last 12 months – which increased from just over a third (35%) in the past year. With increased sedentary lifestyles among Australians today, we shed light on what this means for the emerging generations and the challenge it presents to engage them in physical recreation not just virtual entertainment, and in face to face interaction not just screen-based communication.

Walking more popular than the gym

The most popular type of physical recreation Australians participate in is walking, indicated by 2.3 million females and 1.2 million males. This is followed closely by going to the gym or fitness, again more popular with females – almost 1.8 million females go to the gym with 1.4 million males doing the same. Males are more likely to go for a jog or run (740,500) than females (624,000).

The top 10 sports:

Whilst still popular, swimming and diving as a sport has dropped down the list in the most recent study, with an estimated 226,200 less people involved now than a year ago. Bushwalking has also lost participants, declining by 150,900 participants to a total of 285,600 being involved with the activity.

Aqua aerobics is rising up the list, growing from 75,300 participants to 90,800 in the past year along with triathlons which have become more popular, growing from 47,700 participants to 58,800 in the last year.

Younger generations most active:

Participation in sport and physical recreation was generally highest among younger generations. Almost three quarters of those aged 15-17 participated in sport (73.8%) which declines after finishing school to just over two-thirds of 18-24 year olds (67.2%). Just under half (46.6%) of Australians aged over 65 continue to participate in physical recreation and sport.

Sedentary lifestyles and the Screenage:

The sport participation rate has been declining across the board, and these younger generations are no exception, declining from a participation rate of 78 to 73.8 for Gen Zeds aged 15-17 in the last year.

In addition, Generation Z (born 1995-2009) have been born into the Screenage – where since 1997 we have spent more time on digital devices than in human face to face interaction.

Social researcher Claire Madden highlights that ‘the concern is the declining trend line of participation in physical recreation of Australians across age groups whilst at the same time an increasing trend of Australians likely to be obese or overweight, with current trend lines predicting that when Gen Z, born 1995-2009, reach adulthood in 2027, 78% of males and 62% of females in this generation are likely to be obese or overweight.’

Sedentary lifestyles are on the rise in this Screenage era, and based on a projection of the current trends, by the year 2027, when Gen Z have all reached adulthood, 77.9% of males and 61.8% of females are likely to be obese or overweight. ‘The concern is the declining trend line of participation in physical recreation of Australians across age groups whilst at the same time an increasing trend of Australians likely to be obese or overweight, with current trend lines predicting that when Gen Z, born 1995-2009, reach adulthood in 2027, 78% of males and 62% of females in this generation are likely to be obese or overweight.’

The challenge in our technological era is to engage these new generations in physical recreation not just virtual entertainment, in offline communities not just online networks, and face to face interaction not just screen-based communication.

For more information:

For media commentary please contact Ashley McKenzie (ashley@mccrindle.com.au) on 02 8824 3422.