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01.12.2015 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2015 Open Access

BMC Public Health 1/2015

The contribution of sport participation to overall health enhancing physical activity levels in Australia: a population-based study

BMC Public Health > Ausgabe 1/2015
RM Eime, JT Harvey, MJ Charity, MM Casey, JGZ van Uffelen, WR Payne
Wichtige Hinweise

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors’ contributions

RME contributed to the study design, interpretation of results, manuscript conceptualisation and preparation. JTH and MJC contributed to the study design, data management, statistical analysis and interpretation, manuscript conceptualisation and preparation. MMC, JGZvU and WRP contributed to the interpretation of results and manuscript preparation. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.



The contribution of sport to overall health-enhancing leisure-time physical activity (HELPA) in adults is not well understood. The aim was to examine this in a national sample of Australians aged 15+ years, and to extend this examination to other ostensibly sport-associated activities.


The 2010 Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey (ERASS) was conducted by telephone interview in four quarterly waves. Data from this survey were analysed to categorise leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) as HELPA or non-HELPA, and to categorise HELPA activities and sessions of HELPA activity by setting and frequency. The contribution of sport to HELPA was estimated, both directly through activities and settings classified as sport per se, and indirectly through other fitness activities ostensibly related to preparation for sport and enhancement of sport performance.


Of 21,602 respondents, 82 % reported some LTPA in the 12 months prior to the survey. In aggregate, respondents reported 37,020 activity types in the previous 12 months, of which 94 % were HELPA. Of HELPA activities, 71 % were non-organised, 11 % were organised but not sport club-based, and 18 % were sport club-based. Of all sport activities, 52 % were HELPA. Of sport HELPA, 33 % was sport club-based and 78 % was undertaken ≥12 times/year. Sport club members were significantly more likely to have participated in running, but significantly less likely to have participated in walking or aerobics/fitness training, than non-club members.


Club sport participation contributes considerably to LTPA at health enhancing levels. Health promotion policies, and more specifically physical activity policies, should emphasize the role of sport in enhancing health. Sport policy should recognise the health-promoting role of community-based sport in addition to the current predominant focus on elite pathways.
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