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Sport participation at all levels and abilities makes an important contribution to individual and community health and wellbeing, including the amount of regular physical activity (PA) undertaken by Australians. People who participate in sport, particularly team based sport, have a higher likelihood of meeting PA guidelines and continuing PA long term.

There is now compelling evidence that increased levels of PA can bring wide-ranging health benefits for individuals and communities. These benefits can include reducing the risk of developing a range of non-communicable diseases and illnesses, and improving resilience to some communicable diseases (like COVID-19).

At a population level these benefits include lowering health care costs, improving education and economic performance, and contributing to stronger and more cohesive communities.

More detailed information and research on the benefits of sport are included in the Physical Activity and Sport Participation in Australia topics.

Participation trends

Organised sport involvement
9.5 million Australians are involved in organised sport in some way, through playing or non-playing roles.

Recreational activities
Over the last 20 years participation in sport-related activities has remained relatively stable, while non-sport physical activities have increased by more than 20 percentage points.

Digital offerings
During 2020, with lockdown and social restrictions being a factor, many Australians looked for COVID-safe activities and adopted online or virtual options.

Looking for 'a perfect fit"
Trends indicate Australians are adopting recreational activities that meet their busy and social lives, driven by flexibility, tailored by the needs of the individual.

Further information
Additional resources and reading.

Impact on different cohorts

Young Australians (5-15 years)

Missing an early introduction to sport or dropping out at an influential age may mean some young people do not get to experience the benefits offered by positive sporting experiences.


Women were consistently more purposely active across the pandemic and are more likely than men to participate in the types of physical activity which were still possible during restrictions.

Older Australians (aged 55+)

Despite the restrictions, older Australians have the desire to be more active and gain access to the physical activities and social interactions reduced through the pandemic.

People with disability

The effect of the pandemic on participation trends is not yet clear. However, increased costs or reductions in accessible programs will have significant impact on the disability community.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

In 2019-2020 AusPlay suggests an increase in the proportion of individuals within the community who were more active and likely to start achieving the benefits of physical activity.

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse [CaLD] communities

Among persons from CaLD backgrounds in Australia, organised sport participation, for both adults and children, is generally lower than in the wider population.


Pre-pandemic 2.9 million Australians volunteered in sport and active recreation each year. In April-June 2021 only 61% of adults who volunteered in sport pre-COVID had returned.

Impact on different market segments

In 2013, the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) commissed research to better understand the consumer market segments for Australian sports participants (players and volunteers) and non-sports participants.

The Market Segmentations Studies provide key insights regarding how participation in sport is consumed among the Australian population. The research was designed to help organisations refine strategies to recruit and retain adults, children, parents and volunteers in sport and sport clubs and ensure our sporting landscape remains strong.

Based on some of these market segments, if current trends continue, how might customer segments behave in the future?

Ted: Sport driven child

​“I like being part of a club to play sports but they sometimes do other stuff that’s annoying”​

Aisha: Sport indifferent adult

“While I don’t have an issue with sport in general, I didn't see what joining a sport club would do for me.”

The Smiths: Family focussed parents

"We appreciate the benefits of physical activity, but there's not enough time for everything!"

Is this information complete?

The Clearinghouse for Sport is a sector-wide knowledge sharing initiative, and as such your contributions are encouraged and appreciated. If you would like to suggest a resource, submit a publication, or provide feedback on this topic, please contact us.

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