Research published today by Sport Ireland shows a surge in numbers walking, cycling and running since the restrictions were put in place in March.
The survey was undertaken by IPSOS MRBI in three waves from 28 February – 9 March, 16-31 March; and 1-13 April.
The “Delay” phase of Ireland’s response to Covid-19 commenced on 12 March with school closures, limited outdoor gatherings, and the encouragement of working from home, while the “Stay at Home” enhanced restrictions phase commenced on 27 March.
By Wave 3, 78% of Irish adults were reporting that they were walking for recreation at least once per week. This is roughly equivalent to an additional 500,000 regular recreational walkers compared to the numbers of reported walkers during March and April of 2019.
There were also large increases in the numbers of runners and cyclists compared to the same period last year. The research shows that this approximately equates to an additional 450,000 regular runners and 220,000 regular cyclists.
The research found that the gender gap in participation in sport at present is virtually non-existent; however, the social gradients in sport are still as strong as ever.
Only seven per cent of adults in the ABC1 social category now say they are inactive, half what it was previously while in the D2E Category the number remains broadly the same at 21 per cent.
“The findings of the research commissioned by Sport Ireland are extremely positive,” said Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin TD.
“During these uncertain and unprecedented times, it is highly encouraging that Irish adults are seeking to look after their own health and well-being. It is important that people continue to do this by taking part in regular sport and physical activity, while observing the necessary physical distancing and 2km radius restrictions.”
“The decline in the number of inactive people is also welcome and in line with measures outlined in the National Sports Policy. I commend the great work being done by the National Governing Bodies for Sport and the Sport Ireland Local Sports Partnership Network in providing opportunities and guidance on staying physically active. These organisations will continue to have a big role to play in keeping Ireland physically active and participating in sport once the current restrictions are eased.”
“Like all areas of society, the current sporting landscape bears no resemblance to what we had envisaged at the beginning of the year,” added John Treacy, CEO of Sport Ireland.
“While our playing fields, stadia and training facilities lay idle for the moment, what is encouraging is that evidence suggests that people are substituting their usual sporting activity with regular recreational walking and other individual activities.”
“Increases in walking, running and cycling mean that overall levels of sports participation are similar to what they were during the same period in 2019. The sports sector has reacted quickly to the ongoing situation, with innovative programmes and initiatives being developed to help people stay active safely.”