Of 6140 survey respondents, 5371 answered the questions on sport and physical activities, providing the basis for Tables 1 and 2. The supplementary tables are based on the 4724 identified as adults (Tables 3, 4) and 560 as adolescents (Tables 5, 6). Collectively, respondents reported 19,205 instances of participation (i.e., a person reporting that they participated in a particular activity), an average of 3.6 different activities per person, in a total of 88 sports and physical activities. In each pair of tables, results are shown for each activity that contributed at least 1% of all reported instances of participation by the particular group (18 for all respondents, 15 for adults and 17 for adolescents), with the remainder of the reported activities aggregated as ‘Other’.
Gender differences in sport and physical activity participation
Of all sports and physical activities, before COVID-19, the participation frequency of men and boys (mean of 4.5 sessions in past two weeks) was slightly higher than that of women and girls (mean 4.3), however during COVID-19, the participation frequency of men and boys was lower (mean 2.9) than that of women and girls (mean 3.3) (Table 1). The percentage decreases in mean frequency of participation were 35% and 24% respectively, and much greater (61%) for people who did not identify as man or woman.
Similarly, the pre-COVID-19 mean duration of activity sessions (97 min for men and boys, 86 min for women and girls) declined slightly more for men and boys (60%) than women and girls (59%) (Table 1). Further, those who did not identify as man/woman or boy/girl had a greater decline in duration (75%).
For adults, overall men’s mean participation frequency and duration declined more (37%, 61%) than women’s (21%, 59%) (Table 3). However, this pattern was reversed for adolescents, with mean participation frequency and duration of girls declining more (33%, 53%) than for boys (21%, 45%) (Table 5).
Differences between specific sport and physical activities
The majority of the 18 most popular sports and physical activities across all age groups had an overall decline in mean participation frequency during COVID-19. The sports and physical activities with the greatest overall decline were bowls (92%), cricket (81%), swimming (80%) and netball (77%) (Table 1). The decrease in bowls and cricket is likely to be related to a season effect, with these being summer sports. The sports and physical activities with the largest decrease in mean duration were swimming (80%), netball (77%), bowls (77%) and cricket (76%). Except for swimming, these are all team sports. Within these sports and activities, all genders had relatively similar patterns of decline in mean frequency, and also reflected the gendered nature of some sports such as Australian football, and cricket which are male-dominated (Table 1).
In contrast, five sports and physical activities demonstrated increases in mean frequency of participation during COVID-19; these were running/jogging (36%), walking (27%), yoga (21%), bushwalking (20%) and cycling (20%) (Table 1). For all of these activities except bushwalking, women and girls had a higher increase in participation than men and boys. Further, for boxing, participation of women and girls increased by 79%, while participation of men and boys in boxing decreased. The only increases in duration were for women and girls in cycling and running/jogging.
Pre-COVID-19, overall participation in the 18 most popular sports and physical activities was slightly higher for non-metropolitan residents, for both frequency and duration (mean 4.5 sessions and 96 min) compared to metropolitan residents (mean 4.4 sessions and 91 min) (Table 2). Participation decreased slightly more for non-metropolitan residents, both in frequency and duration (31%; 60%) than for metropolitan residents (30%; 59%).
When examining changes in frequency of participation across the diverse sports and physical activities, for most activities, participation decreased in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas. Basketball, athletics and tennis had the greatest regional differences, with non-metropolitan areas having a much greater participation decline in basketball and athletics, and metropolitan areas having a much greater decline in tennis (Table 2).
Participation during COVID-19 increased in both regions for running/jogging, walking, bushwalking, cycling and yoga. Participation in boxing increased in non-metropolitan areas only (Table 2). This was consistent for the overall sample and for adults aged 18 years and over (Table 4).
Regional comparison of increases in participation frequency shows that non-metropolitan areas had larger increases in the frequency of participation in bushwalking, boxing, and cycling, while metropolitan areas had larger increases in the frequency of participation in running/jogging, walking and yoga (Table 2). With the exception of boxing, this pattern of regional differences was also apparent for adult respondents (Table 4).
Adolescents living in both metropolitan and non-metropolitan regions increased their frequency of participation in cycling, fitness/gym, running/jogging and walking, with the largest increase by far in cycling. Adolescents in metropolitan regions also increased their frequency of participation in basketball, dancing and golf (Table 6).
Adolescents increased their duration of participation for more activities than adults, including cycling, running/jogging and walking. Non-metropolitan regions had greater increases in duration of participation than metropolitan regions in all of these activities (Table 6).