Jobless 'less likely to exercise'
The unemployed and least well-off are most likely not to exercise or play sport, a study has revealed.
The fourth Irish Sports Monitor has found 46% of people take some form of exercise but that the less well off a family is, the less they do to improve their fitness. One of the key findings of the 2011 study is a significant fall in the amount of people taking no exercise, down 3% to 13%.
Irish Sports Council chief executive John Treacy said the change in attitudes is important for the nation's health. "It's clear that the physical activity messages are getting through with the drop," he said.
"If we continue along the same path with media involvement, public campaigns and public sector involvement, then we predict this figure to keep falling."
Even though the unemployed are among those most likely not to exercise, they are also most likely to be classed as highly active, with 38% of those out-of-work turning to exercise to fill long days. But the report found financial constraints will limit physical activity.
People in households with an income below 2,500 euro a month are significantly more likely to be less active than homes with earnings of at least 5,500 euro. A lack of exercise is also an issue for people in rural areas.
Experts, who interviewed almost 9,000 people aged 16 and over, warned that they saw a notable rise in sedentariness for men - a fifth of those aged 45-54, one of the age groups hit hardest by the recession. The same pattern does not hit women until they reach 65.
Increases in participation were biggest among the over-55s and under-25s, and while interest in playing team sports is steady, more people are looking to take up individual pursuits.
While there has been a significant improvement on numbers getting active, experts warn that more than half of those exercising are not hitting national or international guidelines. The study found that football, golf and dancing top the bill in terms of not delivering sufficient levels of activity.
Michael Ring, junior sports minister, said the report showed investment was paying off. "The growing participation in sport is great news, especially for all the people and organisations who work hard to get more people involved," he said. "I'm particularly happy to see that there are more volunteers, more people joining clubs, and more people attending sporting events."