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Gap in activity levels between richest and poorest increased during pandemic

THE coronavirus pandemic has widened the gap in activity levels between the richest and poorest in society, a new survey has found.

The proportion of the overall population classified as active – doing more than 150 minutes of at least moderate intensity physical activity per week – has started to stabilise following the lifting of Covid restrictions.

However, this disguises growing inequalities among certain groups, according to the latest Active Lives survey of 175,000 people conducted by grassroots funding body Sport England over the 12 months up to November 2021.

Activity levels have fallen by 4.4 per cent compared to pre-pandemic among those living in the most deprived areas of England, with the drop only 1.2 per cent in the most affluent areas.

Those in routine/semi-routine jobs and those who are long-term unemployed or have never worked are the least likely to be active – 52 per cent – compared to those in the top socio-economic groups – 71 per cent.

There are also gaps in activity linked to disability and ethnicity. Disabled people are less likely to be active (45 per cent) than someone without a disability (66 per cent), while only 50 per cent of people of non-Chinese Asian ethnicity are active compared to 63 per cent of people described as white British.

Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said: “That the data tells us that this initial recovery is not universal is not a surprise and that is exactly why our ‘Uniting the Movement’ strategy focuses resources and funding disproportionally towards the people and places that need the most support to be active.”

Overall, the picture has improved, with those classified as active recovering by 3 per cent in the period between mid-March and mid-May 2021 compared to the same period 12 months earlier – from 58.4 to 61.4 per cent.

The mid-March to mid-May period of 2020 coincided with the introduction of the first national lockdown in the UK.

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