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Football is most popular exercise for Northern Ireland men

World Cup fans may be planning to hog the TV once the competition kicks off, but a new survey suggests many of them are more than simply armchair football supporters.

The research by two universities found playing football is the most popular form of exercise by men in Northern Ireland.

But while the survey found one in five men take some form of exercise each day, with 22% frequently taking to the football pitch, the study also blew the whistle on the 19% of men who admitted they do no exercise at all.

The findings from the 2009 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, conducted by ARK at Queen's University Belfast and the University of Ulster, were released as World Cup fever builds.

Dr Paula Devine, research director of ARK at Queen's, said: “As we approach Men's Health Week, it is welcome to see that one in five men in Northern Ireland take part in physical activity every day.

“A similar proportion never exercise, though, and perhaps this is something that needs to be addressed.”

The research, which involved 470 men across Northern Ireland, is being launched in advance of Men's Health Week, which runs from June 14-20.

Key findings of the Men and Physical Activity study include:

  • Younger men are much more likely than older men to take part in physical activity. Only 7% of those aged 18-24, compared with 37% aged 65 and over, never take part in physical activity.
  • Playing football is the most popular physical activity among men in Northern Ireland (22% of those questioned play often), followed by golf or mini-golf (11%), fitness activities such as going to the gym (7%), and walking, hiking, trekking or climbing (6%).
  • However, while football is the most frequent activity among men aged 18-24 years, golf is most popular among those aged over 65.
  • Of those men who take part in physical activity, 5% most frequently play gaelic football.
  • Of those men who watch sports on TV, 11% most frequently watch gaelic football.
  • Almost three quarters of men who take part in physical activities get a fair amount or a great amount of enjoyment from it. Only 2% said they got no enjoyment.
  • Physical or mental health was reported as a very important reason for 54% of men taking part in physical activities, followed by “meeting other people” (31%), “competing against others” (17%), and “to look good”(11%).
  • One quarter (25%) of those questioned attend sporting events as a spectator at least several times a month. Overall, a higher proportion of men participate in sport than attend sporting events.
  • Over half (58%) of respondents thought the Northern Ireland government should spend more money on sports.
  • 88% of men agreed that taking part in sports develops children's character.

The full survey is available online at www.ark.ac.uk/nilt.

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