Northern Ireland: leading sports & physical activities in 2018, by participation

The most popular sport or physical activity in Northern Ireland is walking for recreation. When it comes to specific types of sport, swimming, keepfit, jogging and cycling are the most practiced sports in Northern Ireland. Preferences appear to be rather similar between women and men, except that men tend to play more football and snooker or pool and women tend to do more keepfit and aerobics.

Sport participation stays constant in Northern Ireland

    The overall participation levels in sport in Northern Ireland stay constant. In 2018, approximately 55 percent of the population participated in some type of physical activity or sport, the same proportion throughout the past decade, only with minor fluctuations throughout. The most common barriers of participating are a lack of time available, a medical condition or simply being uninterested or untrained.  

Age groups

   The share of the population who participate in sports on a monthly basis is highest among 16 to 24 year olds and becomes lower as the age increases with 60 percent between 16 and 24 being physically active at least monthly and 20 percent of people 65 and over. The share of people who are physically active on every day of the week has significantly decreased in people 55 years and older over recent years.
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Most popular sports and physical activities in Northern Ireland 2018, ranked by level of participation
Share of respondents
Walking for recreation49%
Swimming or diving19%
Keepfit / aerobics / yoga / dance exercise17%
Jogging14%
Cycling for recreation11%
Weight training / lifting / bodybuilding10%
Football9%
Golf / pitch and putt / putting (excluding crazy golf)8%
Tenpin bowling8%
Snooker, pool or billards8%
Angling/fishing3%
Darts3%
Bowls3%
Tennis3%
Table tennis3%
Badminton3%
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