Figures released today by Sport England show that 15.5 million people aged 16 and over are playing sport at least once a week.
That’s 750,000 more than a year ago and 1.57 million more than when London won the Olympic and Paralympic bid.
The strongest growth has been among women, with an increase of more than half a million – from 6.3m to 6.87m – in the past year helping to cut the gender gap in sport.
The number of people taking part has risen sharply in the period since the London 2012 Games got underway, with strong increases in Olympic sports such as cycling and sailing.
Participation by disabled people has been rising steadily since 2005, but still lags far behind that for non-disabled people. Sport England this week announced a £10.2 million National Lottery investment to tackle this challenge.
“We set the bar high in this survey, measuring only the people who play sport once a week, every week,” said Sport England’s Chief Executive Jennie Price.
“These results show we are on the right track. I’m particularly pleased that many more women are taking up sports from netball and cycling to running.
“Sport needs to work even harder to attract and keep young people. So the investment in individual sports we will be announcing before Christmas will be strongly focussed on getting more 16- to 25-year-olds playing sport.”
Minister for Sport Hugh Robertson said: “One of the key legacy ambitions from London 2012 was to get more people playing sport –something that no other host city has managed to do.
“These are excellent figures and show that we are making good progress.”
Two thirds of the sports measured by the Active People Survey have shown a positive trend over the past year with athletics, judo, hockey, netball and swimming among those growing in popularity. Cricket was among the grassroots sports that suffered during the wettest summer for a century.
Young people aged between 16 and 25 are the most active in our society, but increasing participation among this age group remains tough and this is the priority for Sport England’s five-year strategy announced in January.