Sport Australia has released the latest annual data from its AusPlay survey, Australia’s largest and most comprehensive sport and physical activity survey launched in late-2015.

For the first time, AusPlay has revealed Australia’s top 20 sports and physical activities along with detailed ‘State of the Play’ reports on each. Recreational activities like walking, fitness/gym, swimming, running and cycling top the list, with football at number six the most popular organised sport for Australian participants.

The first three years of AusPlay has recorded an increase in the overall number of Australians participating in sport and physical activity: 63.0 per cent of Australians interviewed in 2018 have participated in sport or physical activity at least three times per week compared to 59.9 per cent in 2016.

Palmer says it’s a step in the right direction, but solving Australia’s inactivity crisis is far more complex and requires generational change.

“The positive news in this data is that it shows Australians are making the effort to get moving because they are becoming more aware of the importance of sport and physical activity to their health and wellbeing,” Palmer says.

“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.

“We need to move more and our lives depend on it. It is estimated physical inactivity now contributes to the deaths of 16,000 Australians every year. That’s shocking, it’s almost 14 times the national road toll. Sport Australia realises the importance of shifting the dial on this now because we are committed to making generational change.”

Palmer says AusPlay provides invaluable data to help inform governments at all levels, sporting organisations and physical activity providers. She says it can also serve as inspiration for all Australians.

“Australians are lucky to have so many opportunities to get active,” Palmer says. “Our AusPlay survey records 385 types of sports and physical activities undertaken by Australians, and you may just need to find a connection with one of those to change your life for the better."

“It’s interesting to see how activities we participate in evolve as we age. Swimming is a key skill in our formative years, while team sports are popular around the early teens for social as well as physical development. Fitness and gym becomes a key motivation from late-teens onwards, while walking is the number one activity from 35 onwards. The message here is there’s a sport or physical activity to keep you moving throughout your entire life."

“Sport Australia launched #FindYour30 to motivate every Australian adult to find 30 minutes of physical activity a day and I encourage everyone to go to Sport Australia’s website if you’re looking for tips to get more active.”

  • Cycling has two peak age periods for organised participation: the first at ages 9-11 then again at 45-54. As they say, it’s like riding a bike!

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
  11. Yoga 984,362
  12. Australian Football 913,668
  13. Netball 901,903
  14. Cricket 798,618
  15. Dancing (recreational) 688,293
  16. Pilates 585,706
  17. Surfing 508,015
  18. Gymnastics 489,058
  19. Touch football 464,721
  20. Martial arts 316,826