Skip to content

Aussies moving more to improve their mental health

01 November 2022

On the back of Mental Health Month, new research from the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) shows more Australians than ever are motivated to move for their mental health.

  • Bush walking and yoga remain popular activities
  • Martial arts popular among females 55+
  • Swimming, football/soccer and dancing top sports for children

The ASC’s latest national AusPlay report provides vital participation insights for key demographic groups in Australia, with adults (ages 15 and up) reporting an increase in getting active for mental health reasons, almost doubling in five years from 16 per cent in 2017 to 31 per cent today.

Aside from the mental health benefits, Australians are increasingly participating in sport and physical activity for fun, social reasons and to be outdoors.

However, the percentage of people in the same cohort who say being active isn’t a priority has increased to 11 per cent this year – the highest ever result in AusPlay.

Minister for Sport Anika Wells said AusPlay remains an important tool for the sector to track how and why Australians are being physically active.

“It’s great to see so many Australians returning to the sports and activities they enjoy,” Minister Wells said.

“Australians see the benefits of being active for their physical and mental health and we must continue to address the barriers that are stopping them from being active.”

ASC CEO Kieren Perkins OAM said the results highlight a change in the way Australians are getting active.

“We are seeing more Australians engage in activities such as bush walking, yoga, pilates and exergaming which can be enjoyed at times and locations that suit them,” Mr Perkins said.

“We know many people are juggling multiple commitments and it’s important that our sports continue to explore how best to engage with Australians who are looking for flexibility to suit their lifestyles.”

Almost half (47 per cent) or 2,363,000 children aged 0-14 are participating in organised outside-of-school sport or physical activity at least once a week, an increase from 42 per cent the previous year as the nation continues to recover from the pandemic.

The most popular activities for boys are swimming, football/soccer and AFL, and swimming, dancing and gymnastics for girls.

Bush walking continues to be popular among males. 872,000 males went bush walking in the last 12 months, making it the third most popular non-sport activity for men after walking and fitness/gym.

Yoga stretched past bush walking as the third most popular non-sport activity for women with 1,291,000 participants, after walking and fitness/gym.

Martial arts and sailing also made the list for most popular sports for older Australians aged 55 and up, with 88,000 males sailing and 85,000 females participating in martial arts.

The National Sport and Physical Activity Participation Report November 2022 is available via The Clearinghouse for Sport. A one page summary highlighting key findings is also attached.

A group of men and women run together wearing numbered bibs
Australians are increasingly participating in sport and physical activity for fun, social reasons and to be outdoors.

Other key findings

  • 22 per cent (340,000) of young adults aged 15-19 were involved in a non-playing role, most of which (76 per cent) were volunteers. While this number has increased, it is still below pre-pandemic levels
  • 43 per cent of inactive older Australians aged 55+ say poor health/injury is a barrier to being active
  • The percentage of active Australians 18+ with a disability who are motivated by the physical (78 per cent), social (29 per cent) and mental health (28 per cent) benefits of physical activity has increased from the previous year
  • 83 per cent of Australians 15+ in major cities participate in sport or physical activity at least once a week compared to 76 per cent in regional/rural areas.

Download the one-page summary

Return to top