Irish people are more likely than the vast majority of other Europeans to play sport or exercise at least five times per week, according to the results of a new EU-wide survey.
The research, commissioned by the European Commission, shows that 14% of Irish people — more than 1 in 7 — said they engage in some form of physical activity on five or more occasions per week.
It was the second highest rate among the 27 EU member states after Finland with 18% and more than double the EU average of 6%.
However, more than a third of Irish people also admitted that they never did any type of physical exercise.
The survey showed 35% of Irish respondents said they do not engage in any form of physical activity — up 1 percentage point from when a similar survey was conducted in 2017.
At the same time, the proportion of Irish people who are physically inactive is still below the EU average of 45% — a figure which has increased six percentage points over the past decade.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said the rates of physical inactivity across the EU remained “alarmingly high”.
The most common reason why people in the Republic do not partake in more regular physical exercise is lack of time with 45% citing it as a factor.
But lack of time is not the only barrier with 7% claiming exercising or playing sport was too expensive, while 4% said there was a lack of suitable or accessible sporting infrastructure in their area.
Irish people were split almost evenly on whether they believed their local authority was doing enough for its citizens in relation to physical activities.
The Eurobarometer poll, which was carried out in April/May 2022, surveyed 26,500 individuals across the 27 EU member states, including over 1,000 in Ireland.
It revealed that Irish people have the highest level of volunteering of any EU country when it comes to assisting with sports-related activities with 19% helping out in running events or coaching — almost twice the EU average of 10%.
The survey showed that 54% of Irish people stated they played sport or took part in some physical exercise either often or with some regularity compared to the EU average of 38%.
The highest level of physical activity among the general population was recorded in Finland where 71% exercise or play sport at least once a week.
Conversely, a majority of people in eight EU countries said they never took part in any physical activity with the highest levels in Portugal (73%), Greece (68%) and Poland (65%)
Two-thirds of Irish respondents said they walked for at least 10 minutes on 4-7 days in the previous week.
Of those, only 17% said they usually walk for longer than an hour.
The survey also revealed details of our more sedentary lifestyle habits with half of all Irish people admitting to sitting for between 2.5 hours and 5.5 hours on average each day.
Only 6% said they sat for in excess of 8.5 hours each day — the lowest level of any EU country.
While there was a perception that the Covid-19 pandemic allowed people more time to engage in exercise, the results showed it mostly had a negative impact on activity levels with 38% of Irish people claiming they exercised less with 15% stopping all physical activity. Only 13% said they exercised more than normal during the pandemic.