New data shows sport’s link to the feel-good factor

The first ever Sport and Active Lifestyles data published today by Sport Wales has found a significant positive association between taking part in sport and good mental health.

Adults who are active three times or more a week were one and a half times more likely to report 'feeling good about themselves' 'often' or 'all of the time'.

Of those surveyed, 29% of adults said they took part in sport and physical recreation three or more times a week, with 47% taking part at least once a week.

The findings show that those taking part in frequent sport and physical recreation also more likely to have healthier lifestyles, such as being a healthy weight, eating their '5 a day' and not smoking.


Those with lower activity levels (less than once a week) are more likely to live in material deprivation, be unemployed, and not have a car, internet access or formal qualifications. 

The statistics, based on responses from 10,000 adults, are the first time sport, public health and other national data have been collected side-by-side as part of the National Survey for Wales.

Sport Wales chief executive, Sarah Powell, commented:

"This new evidence provides a clear link between sport and better physical and mental health. The fact that so many adults in Wales are taking advantage of the health benefits of sport is very pleasing. The challenge for us in Wales is to get more people doing frequent activity and making sport accessible for those people who are not taking part.

"What we need to focus on now is breaking down the barriers to sport and physical recreation for those people that are not yet benefiting. Once we start tackling those issues - which I know are the reality for so many people - then we can start to unlock a really healthy future for Wales."

To help better understand some of the barriers to sport and physical activity, the survey asked people what would encourage them to do more sport.  Key reasons cited included: being less busy at work (32% of adults in Wales); being younger (29%); being fitter (27%); having fewer family commitments (23%); if it cost less (18%); having more local facilities or clubs (16%).

Talking about the next steps, Sarah Powell said:

"Six out of 10 people in Wales say they want to do more sport and physical recreation, which is why it is so important that we, along with our partners,use this insight to better inform our approach to providing the right local solutions that support frequent weekly activity.

"The findings highlight the need for an all Wales approach with collaboration across every sector and collective solutions to tackle the challenges and maximise the opportunities in front of us.

"The data is also hugely valuable for our work with other public sector bodies, in particular Public Health Wales and Natural Resources Wales as we work more closely in the future. For example, if more people can be encouraged to be active outdoors, trails are provide for people to cycle and run, and we help support volunteers and clubs to run those activities, we can start to see how a more sustainable and joined up approach to getting more people active can be realised. 

"Only by using this information and ensuring we listen and talk to the people of Wales can we better understand the barriers and societal issues they face and focus our investment and work in targeting the root cause to some of these challenges.

"In November we will be inviting people across Wales to help us shape a new vision for sport - a vision for everyone in Wales. In particular we want to hear from those that currently feel that sporting activity is not for them, to be able to fully understand the barriers to participation that exist and stop them from having the feel good factor that comes with living active lives."

The survey

  • The new National Survey for Wales replaces the Welsh Health Survey, the Arts in Wales Survey, the Welsh Outdoor Recreation Survey and the Active Adults Survey.
  • The National Survey for Wales is a face-to-face survey of over 10,000 randomly-selected adults aged 16 and over, carried out across Wales.
  • The findings give us a new insight into who takes part in sport and activity and their other habits and routines in daily life.
  • Given the difference in the way the data has been collected, it is not possible to make comparisons between the data collected during the former Active Adult Survey cycles and the new sport data captured as part of the National Survey for Wales. This means that the National Survey 2016-17 results are to be treated as a new baseline from which to measure progress and as an opportunity to explore the links between sport and other policy areas.
  • For more background information on the survey, the survey method and questionnaire coverage, latest news, results and reports from the development work, and further information on data linkage, please see the Welsh Government's web pages ( 
  • The analysis above is based on the full National Survey for Wales 2016/17 database.

Additional key findings:

  • Males (52% at least one session a week) do sport more frequently than females (42%)
  • 59% of adults reported that they had taken part in some sporting activity in the last four weeks
  • 23% of adults are members of a sports club
  • 10% of adults volunteer in sport

Health and physical recreation links from survey findings:

  • Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Guidelines: 37% of adults who participate in sport and physical recreation less than once a week meet the CMO guidelines on being active for 150 minutes a week. That rises to 82% of people who participate 3 or more times a week.
  • Obesity: 63% of adults who participate in sport and physical recreation less than once a week are classed as overweight, obese or morbidly obese. That drops to 53% for people who participate 3 or more times a week.
  • Smoking: 48% of adults who participate in sport and physical recreation less than once a week have never smoked. That rises to 57% who participate 3 or more times a week.
  • 5 a day: 18% of adults who participate in sport less than once a week eat 5 portions of fruit and veg a day.  That rises to 35% for those who participate 3 or more times a week.
  • Health: 62% of adults who participate in sport and physical recreation less than once a week say they have very good or good health. That rises to 86% for those who participate 3 or more times a week.