Sports Council ResearchThe largest study of participation in sport and exercise ever conducted in Ireland has been published by the Irish Sports Council and the Economic and Social Research Institute.

The report highlights the growing evidence linking low levels of physical activity to poor health and focuses on why people take up and drop out from sport and exercise activities at different life stages.

There are key lessons to be learned from the report which runs to 159 pages and we will look at a number of strands over the coming days.

The two most important elements are the participation of children in sport and how that persists into later life.

Key findings on the youth side show that while as many as 95% of children up to the age of 11 play sport regularly, this figure drops significantly in secondary school.

The key time is around exams when girls in particular tend to fall away from sport in order to concentrate on studies and then do not return.

The irony and shame is that there is evidence to show that students who play sport will produce better exam results and go on to greater heights in their careers.  It is an anomaly that must be addressed and Sport for Business has ideas on how this can be done.

Tomorrow we will publish ten key take aways from the research and begin to look at ways in which change and improvement can be brought about.  

The youth side of sport will be a key focus for Sport for Business in 2014 and we will host a Business of Youth Sport Conference at UCD Smurfit Business School in June.

Speaking at the launch of the report yesterday, Kieran Mulvey, Chairperson of the Irish Sports Council said: The Irish Sports Council has made increasing participation in sport and physical activity a key strategic priority. It is vital that we and our key stakeholders have access to this type of research to underpin our efforts in this regard.”

John Treacy, Chief Executive of the Irish Sports Council acknowledged “the thought provoking report which will help us focus in terms of strategic priorities”

Report author Dr. Pete Lunn of the ESRI said: The findings imply a need to change the way we think about promoting sport and exercise. We are good at getting children involved – it’s keeping people involved as they get older that is the problem. The evidence suggests we could focus more on the major transitions in people’s lives and try to make it easier for them to continue to be active.”

A copy of the full report can be downloaded here.