Irish adults have adapted well to Covid-19 lockdown measures and are walking more and exercising as much as they were this time last year, a new survey has found.
Research conducted by Ipsos MRBI on behalf of Sport Ireland shows a surge in the number of adults walking, cycling and running since Covid-19 restrictions came into force in March.
The survey found that as the pandemic unfolded and more restrictions were rolled out, people began to look for alternative forms of physical activity and exercise as the lockdown continued.
While adults were not swimming, golfing, or playing Gaelic games or soccer they looked to other forms of physical exercise and sport, such as running, cycling, yoga and weights.
The survey was carried out in three waves: February 28-March 9, March 16-31, and April 1-13, covering the ‘Delay Phase’ of Ireland’s response from March 12 and the ‘Stay at Home’ phase from March 27 when further restrictions on movement came into force.
The percentage of adults walking increased to 78% during the ‘Stay at Home’ phase of the pandemic, up significantly on the comparable period last year (64%), the survey found.
Despite the Covid-19 restrictions, it also found that the percentage of people participating in sport during the ‘Stay at Home’ phase of the pandemic (45%) remained close to levels observed in the same period last year (47%).
The increased activity levels represent an additional 500,000 regular walkers, 450,000 regular runners, and 220,000 regular cyclists compared to the same period in 2019.
The research also found that the number of inactive adults fell by 8% during the pandemic when compared to last year - the proportion of inactive adults was 14% during the ‘Stay at Home’ pandemic stage compared to 22% in March/April 2019.
While playing fields, stadia and training facilities lay idle for the moment, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, John Treacy, said it was “encouraging” that people were substituting their usual sporting activity with regular recreational walking and other individual activities.
“Increases in walking, running and cycling mean that overall levels of sports participation are similar to what they were during the same period in 2019," Mr Treacy said.
The sports sector has reacted quickly to the ongoing situation, with innovative programmes and initiatives being developed to help people stay active safely.
Minister of State for Tourism and Sport, Brendan Griffin welcomed the “extremely positive” findings, which he described as "highly encouraging".