Sports Participation and Health Among Adults in Ireland

E XECUTIVE S UMMARY

T he purpose of the report is to provide a descriptive account of levels and patterns of sport and leisure-time activity in Ireland today, viewed from a health perspective, and to draw implications for policy on the promotion of sport and physical exercise for public health purposes. The report focuses on the adult population. Subsequent reports, based on a survey of sport among students in primary and post-primary schools that is currently underway, will examine sport and physical activity among young people. These reports are part of a programme of research on sport and physical activity carried out the by the Sports Research Centre in the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI). The Sports Research Centre is a joint initiative of the ESRI and the Irish Sports Council that was established in 2003. T his report is based on the Survey of Sport and Physical Exercise which was carried out by the Survey Unit of the ESRI in July- September 2003. This survey collected data from a nationally representative sample of 3,080 individuals aged 18 years and over using face-to-face interviews. I nternational research has shown that physical inactivity is a major contributor to poor health and premature mortality in the populations of developed countries. Research has also shown that substantial health benefits can be gained not only from intense aerobic exercise but also from light physical activity engaged in as part of the normal routines of daily living (walking, gardening, climbing stairs, etc.). Widely accepted international standards recommend that people should aim to achieve an accumulated 30 minutes of moderate activity for five or more days per week as the minimum basis for good health. T he World Health Organisation estimates that, worldwide, more than 60 per cent of adults do not engage in the minimum recommended levels, and that this is increasingly becoming the case in poor counties as well as rich ones. A significant minority of adults – of the order of 20-25 per cent – are completely inactive. Trends over time are more difficult to establish as relevant data are generally not available. Such evidence as exists suggests that over the past 30 years or so, in some countries at least, participation in sport and

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International Levels and Trends in Physical Activity

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