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Cycling cracks top five in Australia's most popular sports

Sports Australia have released the latest annual data from Australia's most comprehensive sport and physical activity survey, and bike riding has come in fifth most popular.

The survey by AusPlay, launched in late-2015, aims to provide accurate information on trends in participation and physical activities among Australian residents by interviewing approximately 20,000 adults and 3,500 children (under 15) each year.

Unsurprisingly, it was recreational activities like walking, fitness/gym, swimming, running and cycling that topped the list – in that order.

With the exception of fitness/gym, these activities also ranked in the lower percentage for amount of money spent per participant, and were rarely performed as part of an organised activity or team.

Top 20 participation sports and physical activities

*Based on annual participation (organised out-of-school activities only for children 0-14; all activities for adults 15+)

  1. Walking (Recreational) 8,783,064
  2. Fitness/Gym 6,874,541
  3. Swimming 4,505,531
  4. Running/Athletics 3,334,693
  5. Cycling  2,359,660
  6. Football 1,767,288
  7. Tennis 1,202,011
  8. Bush walking 1,189,493
  9. Basketball 1,017,968
  10. Golf 1,015,150
  1. Yoga 984,362
  2. Australian Football 913,668
  3. Netball 901,903
  4. Cricket 798,618
  5. Dancing (recreational) 688,293
  6. Pilates 585,706
  7. Surfing 508,015
  8. Gymnastics 489,058
  9. Touch football 464,721
  10. Martial arts 316,826

The cycling snap shot

Cycling, including all forms of recreational and competitive bike riding, showed impressive growth potential, with 400,000 adults considering taking up cycling each year and only 54,000 thinking about dropping out.

The following statistics are some of the key take outs from the Cycling State of Play Report.

  • 2.3 million adults (or 11.5% of the adult population) participated in bike riding each year.
  • Adult participation was slightly skewed toward males, with a 62% to 38% gender split.
  • The majority of cycling participation was casual or non-organised, with only 8% of bike riders participating through an organisation or at a venue.
  • The peak participation rate for bike riding was around middle age (45-54 for both men and women).
  • Bike riding was one of the cheaper activities, with a median annual spend of $170 and a total of $57 million spent per year (compared to fitness/gym's $3 billion).
  • The dominant motivation for participation was health and fitness in adults and as a mode of transport for younger people.
  • The dominant reason for dropping out was poor health or injury, closely followed by not having enough time.

Interestingly, the number of children participants for out-of-school bike riding was so small (less than 50,000) that not enough data was sampled for a meaningful analysis.

This highlights the ongoing importance of programs like Bicycle Network's Ride2School initiative.

The bigger picture

For the first time in three years AusPlay recorded an increase in the overall number of Australians participating in sport and physical activity, though it was minor.

63 per cent of Australians interviewed in 2018 have participated in sport or physical activity at least three times a week compared to 59.0 per cent in 2016.

Sport Australia CEO Kate Palmer says it’s encouraging to see a gradual increase in physical activity, but warns it will require much more improvement and long-term behavioural change to combat Australia’s inactivity crisis.

“It’s a small step in the right direction, but we’re still falling a long way behind when it comes to meeting recommended physical activity guidelines. For example, research tells us only 19 per cent of children meet the recommended one hour of physical activity a day.

“Our general lifestyles are becoming more sedentary than ever before because of things such as technological advances, so that makes it critically important to find dedicated time for sport and physical activity in our lives.

Sport Australia have launched their #FindYour30 campaign to motivate every Australian adult to make time for 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

Bicycle Network strongly believe that the best way to obtain vital exercise in to incorporate active transport in to your daily commute.

Our lives are depending on it.

It is estimated physical inactivity now contributes to the deaths of 16,000 Australians every year. That is almost 14 times the national road toll.

With 'not having enough time' consistently featuring in the top reasons for dropping out of almost all the top 20 sports and physical activities, it makes sense to look in to transport behaviour changes that incorporate physical activity in to your lifestyle, and can often end up saving you time and money.

If you're thinking about getting on the bike, check out our Tips & Resources page for information and inspiration, and feel free to contact us at any time for assistance or advice.