"Fitness and gym becomes a key motivation from late-teens onwards, while walking is the number one activity from 35 onwards. The message here is there’s a sport or physical activity to keep you moving throughout your entire life.

“Sport Australia launched #FindYour30 to motivate every Australian adult to find 30 minutes of physical activity a day and I encourage everyone to go to Sport Australia’s website if you’re looking for tips to get more active.”

Top 20 participation sports and physical activities

*Based on annual participation (organised out-of-school activities only for children 0-14; all activities for adults 15+)

  1. Walking (Recreational) 8,783,064
  2. Fitness/Gym 6,874,541
  3. Swimming 4,505,531
  4. Running/Athletics 3,334,693
  5. Cycling  2,359,660
  6. Football 1,767,288
  7. Tennis 1,202,011
  8. Bush walking 1,189,493
  9. Basketball 1,017,968
  10. Golf 1,015,150
  11. Yoga 984,362
  12. Australian Football 913,668
  13. Netball 901,903
  14. Cricket 798,618
  15. Dancing (recreational) 688,293
  16. Pilates 585,706
  17. Surfing 508,015
  18. Gymnastics 489,058
  19. Touch football 464,721
  20. Martial arts 316,826


  • Walking has the highest participation rate, but is rarely an organised activity so Australians spend far less on walking than the other top 20 activities. Australian adults spend approximately $23 million per year on walking participation, compared to more than $3 billion Australian adults spend each year on fitness and gym activities.
  • Of the top 20 activities, 10 have predominantly male participants and 10 predominantly female:
    • The activities with the largest percentage of adult female participation are Pilates (90 per cent), Netball (89 per cent), Dancing (89 per cent), and Yoga (86 per cent).
    • The activities with the largest percentage of adult male participation are Cricket (88 per cent), Australian Football (84 per cent) and Golf (81 per cent)
    • Activities with the closest gender equity among adults include Bushwalking (51 per cent Female), Running (54 per cent Male) and Martial Arts (55 per cent Female)
  • There has been a surge in women regularly participating in Australian Football since the introduction of the AFLW. The number of women (females aged 15+) participating at least once a week has risen from 31,542 in 2017 to 59,504 in 2018, while participation at least twice a week has gone from 19,005 to 48,225, a rise of 154%. But among the team sports in the top 20 activities, Netball, Football, Basketball and Touch Football still have more female participation in that order.
  • Looking at participation per capita, the ACT leads adult participation in six of the 20 top activities (Gym/Fitness, Running, Cycling, Bushwalking, Football and Martial Arts). Other leading states and territories for top 20 activities include: Victoria (Golf, Basketball, Pilates);  Northern Territory (Yoga, AFL, Cricket); NSW (Swimming, Tennis, Dancing, Surfing); Queensland (Touch Football); Tasmania (Walking); and South Australia (Netball).
  • Football remains the largest team sport, with an estimated 1.43 million Australians playing what is considered organised football.
  • Of the top 20 activities:
    • Seven had a greater percentage of adult participation in remote or very remote regions compared to the overall Australian adult population. These included: Touch Football, Tennis, Australian Football, Cricket, Netball, Basketball and Walking.
    • Six had a greater percentage of participation for adults of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) backgrounds compared to the overall population. These included Football (7.8% compared to 5.4%), Fitness/Gym (36% compared to 33.8%), Running (16.5% compared to 15.3%), Cricket (3.2% compared to 2.7%), Basketball (3.9% compared to 3.5%) and Yoga (5.2% compared to 4.8%).
    • Six had a greater percentage of participation for adults of Indigenous culture compared to the overall population. These included: Basketball (5.6% compared to 3.5%), Touch Football (3.8% compared to 1.8%), Netball (4.3% compared to 2.8%), Cricket (3% compared to 2.7%), Martial Arts (1.5% compared to 1.2%) and Australian Football (2.7% compared to 2.6%).
    • Two had a greater percentage of participation for adults with disabilities compared to the overall population. These were Walking (49.2% compared to 43.6%) and Martial Arts (1.3% compared to 1.2%)
  • Martial Arts has far different peak participation ages for males and females in organised sport. Participation for males peaks at 9-11 years of age, whereas for females it is 65+.
  • Cycling has two peak age periods for organised participation: the first at ages 9-11 then again at 45-54. As they say, it’s like riding a bike!
  • Golf is rare, where participation rates increase with age. More than half of all adult golfers are aged 55 and over (59%), with peak participation occurring at 65+ years of age.
  • The average adult who participates in walking has a median of 156 sessions a year lasting 40 minutes.