Frequently Asked Questions

About the Active People Interactive tool:

Q: How do I use the interactive tool?

A: Read the one page guides to getting started with the Active People Interactive. The guide for Sport is located here, and the Wider Physical Activity guide is located here. If you're looking for a more specific 'how to...' the help section should live up to its name but, if you get stuck, get in touch via apihelp@sportengland.org.

Q: What is the difference between ‘Sport’ and ‘Wider Physical Activity’?

A: The Active People Survey data is derived from a survey that tracks the number of people taking part in sport in England. The survey tracks sports participation amongst those over 14 years old (from APS7). The reference period for Active People is October to October, with interim results covering an April – April period.

Public Health England pay for additional data to be collected as a part of the Active People Survey to track physical activity (as well as BMI and health and nutrition information) for adults over 16 years old as part of their Public Health Outcomes Framework (PHOF). The reference period for this data is January to January. For more information on PHOF, visit www.phoutcomes.info

Q: I can't log in / The page won't load / Other technical problems.

A: Check if caps lock is on / Refresh the web page. If those don't work email details to apihelp@sportengland.org and we'll help you out.

Q: Why is there no data for my question?

A: There are two main occasions where there won't be data. Firstly, some questions were only asked in certain survey waves, so if the question wasn't asked at that time, there's nothing to show you. Secondly, when the number of people answering the question (the count) is really small (less than 30 people) we don't think the information is reliable enough to show the results. Using a more technical explanation, when the count is below 30 we are not sufficiently confident the survey result is a true reflection of the situation in the population. When a count is below 30, different statistical rules apply so there is a technical reason for choosing this this threshold. This threshold of a count of 30 is a commonly used principle in the publication of survey data.

Q: Can I export the data?

A: Yes. You can choose to show your results as tables, charts or, where relevant, maps. You can then export your table as a CSV file, which can be opened by spreadsheet programmes such as MS Excel, while charts and maps can be exported as pictures (PNGs) or as PDFs.

Q: How do I find out more information about the measure I have selected?

A: When you have run your analysis, you can click on the 'i' button at the bottom of the page for further information. A new window opens which provides further detail on the measures and selections. In addition (when you are selecting your measures and the scope of the research) if you hover over the options, a hover tip with a brief description will appear.

Q: Can I combine data from two or more time periods of the Active People Survey to increase the sample size for my query?

A: This is a bit complicated and isn't always suitable so contact apihelp@sportengland.org with your query and if combining datasets would be suitable, we'll do it for you.

Q: Where does the population data come from? / Can I turn percentage results into numbers of people?

A: The population data is from the official labour market statistics which can be accessed at www.nomisweb.co.uk. If you need to turn percentage results into numbers of people, it is important to apply numbers from the relevant population for your query. For example, if you are looking at the percentages for females participating in England and Manchester, you need to apply these to the population of women in England and the population of women in Manchester respectively. It is also important to use the correct year of population data:

Active People waves:

  • 2005/06 (APS 1): mid-2005 population data
  • 2007/08 (APS 2): mid-2007 population data
  • 2008/09 (APS 3): mid-2008 population data
  • 2009/10 (APS 4): mid-2009 population data
  • 2010/11 (APS 5): mid-2010 population data
  • 2011/12 (APS 6): mid-2011 population data
  • 2012/13 (APS 7): mid-2012 population data
  • 2013/14 (APS 8): mid-2013 population data
  • 2014/15 (APS 9): mid-2014 population data
  • 2015/16 (APS 10): mid-2015 population data

Public Health waves:

  • 2012/13 (PHE 1): mid-2012 population data
  • 2013/14 (PHE 2): mid-2013 population data
  • 2014/15 (PHE 3): mid-2014 population data
Q: Why does the data only go to local authority level? Can I look at results for narrower geographical areas?

A: Local authority is the smallest level at which the Active People survey can accurately measure results. For smaller geographical areas there are too few respondents to have reliable results, however, using advanced statistical techniques, modelled estimates have been produced for smaller areas (MSOAs - Middle Layer Super Output Areas) using data from APS 6. These results can be viewed at http://sae.sportengland.org/.

Q: Why are there options for 14+ and 16+ results?

A: In July 2012, Sport England extended the age range of the Active People Survey to include 14 and 15 year olds. Results for APS 7 onwards include estimates of the percentage of people aged 14 years or over playing sport. We have continued with the analysis and publication of 16+ results to allow for examination of trends over time. Public Health England have only included adults who are over 16 years old.

Q: Why is there no data for faith / sexual orientation / social grade / working status for those aged 14+?

A: These questions are not asked of 14 and 15 year olds as not all demographic questions were considered appropriate to ask of 14 and 15 year olds. Results broken down by these demographic groups (and other demographics) are available for the 16+ population.

About the data:

Q: How is the data collected and who is interviewed?

A: Active People is the largest survey of sports participation in Europe (possibly the world, but we haven't checked every country). Around 160,000 telephone interviews are carried out each survey year (500 per local authority in England); although in APS 1 the sample size was double (1,000 per local authority). It's a survey of the English population aged 16 and over, with no upper age limit. If you want further details, have a look at the insight pages of the research and insight pages of the Sport England website.

Q: Why is my result different from a figure I've seen elsewhere?

A: Active People data is complex and there are a number of ways to look at the data. The information tab will give more details about your result - for example, is it at least moderate or is it any intensity of activity? What is the time period for your query? Does the measure relate to at least once a week, or at least once in the last 28 days or at least once in the last 12 months? Has the definition of the sport changed? Some examples are:

  • Any volunteering in this tool relates to any in the last 28 days, but we have also published once a week volunteering results
  • The NI8 data in this tool is shown for a single year, whereas you might have 2 year rolling data from our datasheets
  • Rowing previously only included water-based rowing, however from APS 7 Q2 it also includes indoor rowing
Q: Who designed the methodology and the questionnaire? / Can we trust the data?

A: The Active People survey is central to the measurement of Sport England's strategy for community sport and it is absolutely vital it meets the highest quality standards in research design and survey methodology. The market research agency Ipsos-Mori carried out the first four survey waves (from 2005-06 to 2009-10) and TNS-BMRB have run the survey since October 2010. In addition, we receive advisory input from the Office of National Statistics and a panel of eminent academics with specialist expertise in the areas of physical activity and sport surveys. More details of the methodology and pilot schemes which have been carried out to maximise the quality of the survey are on the research and insight pages of the Sport England website.

Q: Have there been any changes to the methodology or questionnaire over the years?

A: Active People is a landline telephone survey and has been since it started, but there have been some changes to the questionnaire and periods of testing different survey methods. You can download the current questionnaire which includes details of when any questions were added.

Q: What sports are measured by the Active People survey?

A: Respondents are asked what sport and recreational physical activity they have done in the last four weeks and all responses are recorded. Over 300 sports and sport disciplines have been recorded ranging from swimming and athletics to dragon boat racing and zumba. Some of the reported participation measures such as once a week require activities to be carried out at a ‘moderate intensity' defined as whether the effort is usually enough to raise the respondent's breathing rate. A number of activities are assumed to be at least moderate intensity e.g. football, while others are automatically classified as light intensity e.g. darts, shooting. The information tab on the results will show you details of what is included in the measure(s) in your query.

Q: Are walking and cycling included in the Active People survey?

A: Data on walking and cycling is collected in the APS. Respondents are asked about the duration, frequency and intensity of any walking or cycling they have done. There is also a difference made between cycling or walking for the purposes of health or recreation and cycling or walking for travel purposes (i.e. getting from one place to another). The sports participation measures such as once a week will only include cycling for the purposes of health or recreation (recreational cycling) at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes. Public Health England collect a minutes-based measure of cycling and walking (both active and recreational).

Q: What is covered by Physical Activities?

A: Public Health England include dance and gardening in their range of physical activities, as well as cycling (active and recreational), walking (active and recreational), gym, keepfit, and Public Health England’s definition of sport (which excludes recreational cycling and gym and keepfit when compared to Sport England’s definition).

Q: When is the data collected?

A: Interviews take place over the course of the year. The ‘Sport’ survey year runs from October to October (i.e. data for APS 8 was collected from October 2013 to October 2014). Results are released twice a year (in June and December) and always include a full year's worth of data. For example, APS 9 Q2 (mid-year results) released in June 2015 covered data collected from April 2014 to March 2015, i.e. the last two quarters of APS 8 data and the first two quarters of APS 9.

For Public Health England ‘Physical Activity’ data, each survey year runs from January to January, and results are only released once a year.

For more information about release dates, please refer to our research calendar.

Q: Can I access the full Active People Survey datasets?

A: Yes, the SPSS datasets are available (to not-for-profit, public sector and government organisations) via the Essex Data Archive.

For access to the Public Health England data, please contact phe.enquiries@phe.gov.uk.

Q: How can non-English speaking residents answer the questionnaire?

A: If the eligible respondent does not speak English, their language is noted down, and they are phoned back by an interviewer who speaks their language. It is possible to conduct interviews in Urdu, Hindi and Gujarati.

Q: How accurate are the results?

A: Whenever we make inferences to a population, based upon what we have discovered about a sample of that population, there will naturally be some degree of error i.e. the degree to which the survey result could be considered to reflect the 'true' result that would have been recorded if everyone in the population had been surveyed. The larger the sample size, the smaller the degree of sampling error. The table below shows the 95% confidence level (which is used as standard in market research) and the associated sampling error or confidence interval. For example for a sample of 20,000 respondents, the confidence interval is +/- 1.2%.

Reliability at 95% confidence level
Sample size 50%(proportion of respondents)
1,000+/- 3.9%
4,000+/- 2.2%
20,000 (e.g. Region)+/- 1.2%
Q: Is the data representative?

A: The data is weighted to the known population at each level. For example, if you run a query based on regional data it is weighted to the known population profile of the region. If you were looking at a particular local authority, the data would be weighted to that areas' known population. All data has been weighted using 2001 Census data that has been adjusted for the latest ONS (Office for National Statistics) population estimates.

Q: What are the reasons for weighting and the consequences of this?

A: Results of the Active People Survey are weighted to make the data representative of populations at a number of different levels; nationally, county council, and region. Data are also weighted by season to ensure that seasonal effects do not skew the results. Variables subject to weighting include age by gender, ethnicity, household size, work status and NS-SEC. Weighting profiles are derived from 2001 census data that has been adjusted for the latest population estimates.