The number of Irish adults taking part in sport has jumped by 3%, new figures show.
Approximately 1.7 million adults participated in sport at least once a week last year.
According to figures published by Sport Ireland, personal exercise remains the most popular activity for adults at 16%, followed by swimming (9%), running (7%) and cycling (4%).
The Irish Sports Monitor shows that participation rates have grown by 3% since 2017, which equates to an additional 150,000 people.
The latest report, produced in conjunction with Ipsos MRBI, is based on interviews carried out with more than 8,500 adults aged 16 and over between January and December 2019.
While the findings highlight many positives, a persistent social gradient in the proportion that is highly active exists in terms of socio-economic status, with those from lower socio-economic groups being both less likely to be highly active and more likely to be sedentary.
Catherine Martin, Minister for Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sport and the Gaeltacht, said: “The Programme for Government and the National Sports Policy set ambitious targets for increasing the number of adults regularly playing sport – the 3% increase in participation rates announced today is a solid start to that journey.
The decline in the gender gap in active participation to the lowest it has ever been at 3.4% is very welcomeSport Minister Catherine Martin
“The Government has committed to prioritise increasing female participation in sport as participants, coaches, referees and administrators.
“The decline in the gender gap in active participation to the lowest it has ever been at 3.4% is very welcome.
“The low number of sedentary people is encouraging, while the decrease in the disability gradient gap is also a positive development.”
The report found that those who participate in sport and other forms of activity – both physically and socially – exhibit higher levels of positive mental health.
Apart from the increase in active participation, improvements were also reported in the numbers attending events, taking up club membership or involved in volunteering – up to 47% from 45%.
There is always more that can be done to make sure everyone, no matter their age or background, has the opportunity to participate in sport in some capacityKieran Mulvey, Sport Ireland
The report found that there was a significant reduction in the number of adults not regularly taking part in sport or recreational walking.
Chairman of Sport Ireland Kieran Mulvey said: “While the figures announced today are positive, there is always more that can be done to make sure everyone, no matter their age or background, has the opportunity to participate in sport in some capacity.
“The board of Sport Ireland will continue to prioritise our efforts to increase participation right across all groups in our society. The insights gained from the Irish Sport Monitor are key to informing future actions in this regard.”