Active Lives 2023-24: Sport, recreation and physical activity sector calls for stronger measures to reduce inequalities

NSPG statement on Budget 2024 ()

The National Sector Partners Group (NSPG) has issued the following response to the latest Active Lives Adult Survey from Sport England, published today (25 April)


The latest Active Lives Adult Survey continues to show the recovery of the sport, recreation and physical activity sector from Covid-19, with a modest increase in the numbers of active adults. 

However, this data clearly demonstrates that we must work harder and faster to generate transformative change in our nation’s health and wellbeing, unlocking the potential of our sector to reduce inequalities and deliver real progress in activity levels. 

As evidenced by the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG), the UK is currently 11th out of 15 comparable European nations for activity levels, and modest increases such as this will do little to make the UK the most active nation in Europe, with all the associated health and economic benefits.  

These results show a growing gap in levels of activity among different income and deprivation demographics. This was identified as a clear focus of the ‘Get Active’ strategy announced last year. 

We are still seeing little or slow progress with tackling long standing inequalities based on gender, ethnicity and disability. Men are still more likely to be active than women

(66% v 61%), activity is less common for adults with disabilities or long-term conditions (48% v 69% for those without) and there has been a drop in the proportion of Black and Asian adults active now compared to 2015.

There is also a clear issue with activity among the working age population, with stagnant growth among those aged 35-54. As the country struggles with economic inactivity and low

productivity, this clearly demonstrates the need for more robust action to create a more active workforce that is not only healthier, but more productive as a consequence.

Government must now set out in detail how it will dramatically increase activity levels, or risk missing out on the ambitious targets set last year, and work at pace with our organisations to effect this change.

The NSPG remains committed to working with Government through the National Physical Activity Taskforce to deliver on the ambitions of the ‘Get Active’ strategy in raising activity levels across all demographics.  


Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the SRA, said:

‘Sport and recreation unites our nation, binds together our communities and makes our nation healthier, happier and economically stronger by keeping millions active everyday.

Though it is encouraging to see activity levels recovering to pre-pandemic levels, over a third of our population is still inactive.

This is costing the nation’s pockets greatly and with inequalities widening, we cannot afford to continue at this pace - bold action to harness the potential of our sport and recreation sector.

Our members stand ready to support this and are already doing transformational work across the country – but need more support to truly make the impact people across the UK need. 

Alarmingly, Sport England numbers are showing a decline in the number of volunteers – who are the lifeblood of our sector.

With people's incomes being more and more squeezed and club volunteer's time being taken over by more administrative duties (25% increase since 2019), our members are are increasingly struggling to recruit and retain workforce and keep our community clubs thriving. This is particularly acute in more deprived communities where inequalities are starker. 

This is further evidenced today’s numbers confirming that there is either a stagnation or decline in activity levels for lower socio-economic groups, women, disabled people and Black and Asian adults. 

Sport and recreation matters to people across the UK, and we cannot risk losing the positive effects community clubs and organisations have on the nation.

We need bolder action and more ambition for our country to tackle this, where our sector is fully unlocked to support the renewal of the nation and activity is at the heart of all policies and strategies.’


About the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG)

This release is issued on behalf of a coalition of lead representative bodies from across the sport, recreation and physical activity sectors:

  • Active Partnerships
  • Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA)
  • Sport for Development Coalition
  • Sport and Recreation Alliance
  • ukactive
  • Youth Sport Trust

Through our collaborative work as sector partners, we aim to engage decision makers to improve the operating landscape for the sector and embed sport, recreation and physical activity as a key contributor to wider public policy objectives.

As part of wider work through the National Sector Partners Group (NSPG), we published Unlocking the Potential which sets out how sport, recreation and physical activity can be integral to successfully delivering a number of key Government priorities including Levelling Up, driving economic growth, achieving Net Zero and supporting the NHS. The report also proposes a range of systemic interventions including access to investment, tax and regulatory changes and wider policy reform which the coalition believes are key to maximising this role.