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Top Sports and Physical Activities

Sport and active leisure not only offer New Zealanders an enjoyable and challenging way to spend their leisure time, they also contribute to their well-being and to the New Zealand economy. Major studies of the sport and active leisure sector in 1991 and 1996 measured the social and economic benefits of sport in New Zealand.

Over 5,000 New Zealanders were asked about the sports and physical activities they had done in the last year.

Top 5 sports played by young people (5-17 years old)

1. clubs 2. family and friends
boys Soccer (17%) Swimming (25%)
  Rugby union (16%) Cricket (23%)
  Swimming (14%) Cycling (21%)
  Cricket (8%) Walking (12%)
  Hockey (8%) Soccer (11%)
girls Swimming (17%) Swimming (38%)
  Netball (13%) Cycling (21%)
  Horse riding (10%) Walking (21%)
  Tennis (8%) Cricket (9%)
  Soccer (6%) Running/jogging (8%)

Note: The percentages are based on young people who are participants; for example, 17% of boys who are club members play soccer, the figure for all boys is around 6%. Similarly 25% of boys who take part in sport and active leisure with family or friends go swimming, the figure for all boys is around 16%.



Top 15 sports

Top fifteen sports for New Zealand adults
Men Women
1. Golf (26%) 332,500 1. Netball (11%) 154,900
2. Cricket (15%) 184,000 2. Tennis (10%) 131,800
3. Tennis (14%) 181,500 3. Golf (9%) 127,700
4. Touch football (14%) 173,900 4. Touch football (7%) 88,300
5. Rugby union (11%) 137,100 5. Skiing (7%) 88,300
6. Motor sports (10%) 124,400 6. Horse riding (6%) 82,900
7. Shooting (9%) 115,500 7. Basketball (5%) 61,100
8. Basketball (9%) 109,100 8. Badminton (4%) 59,800
9. Yachting/sailing (7%) 92,600 9. Bowls - indoor (4%) 58,400
10. Skiing (7%) 91,400 10. Yachting or sailing (4%) 55,700
11. Squash (7%) 90,100 11. Cricket (4%) 53,000
12. Soccer (7%) 83,800 12. Volleyball (4%) 50,300
13. Bowls - lawn (6%) 71,100 13. Bowls - lawn (4%) 47,500
14. Cricket - indoors (5%) 66,000 14. Squash (3%) 34,000
15. Volleyball (5%) 66,000 15. Motor sports (2%) 31,200

Note: The figures are for participation in the last 12 months and show the percentage and number of people taking part in each sport. The percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number and the number of participants in each sport are rounded to the nearest 100 and are calculated using the percentages before rounding. Motor sports includes motor cycling, trail biking and motor racing.

Top fifteen sports for New Zealand adults of different ages

18-24 years 25-34 years 35-49 years 50+ years
1. Touch football (30%) 1. Golf (20%) 1. Golf (16%) 1. Golf (15%)
2. Golf (23%) 2. Touch football (17%) 2. Tennis (14%) 2. Bowls - lawn (9%)
3. Basketball (23%) 3. Tennis (15%) 3. Cricket (9%) 3. Bowls -indoor (7%)
4. Tennis (23%) 4. Netball (13%) 4. Skiing (7%) 4. Tennis (4%)
5. Cricket (21%) 5. Cricket (12%) 5. Yachting or sailing (7%) 5. Yachting or sailing (4%)
6. Netball (19%) 6. Motor sports (9%) 6. Touch football (7%) 6. Motor sports (2%)
7. Rugby union (16%) 7. Rugby union (9%) 7. Horse riding (6%) 7. Shooting (2%)
8. Skiing (16%) 8. Squash (9%) 8. Motor sports (6%) 8. Cricket (2%)
9. Volleyball (14%) 9. Skiing (8%) 9. Netball (6%) 9. Skiing (2%)
10. Badminton (13%) 10. Basketball (8%) 10. Shooting (5%) 10. Horse riding (2%)
11. Soccer (12%) 11. Shooting (7%) 11. Basketball (5%) 11. Badminton (1%)
12. Rugby league (10%) 12. Soccer (7%) 12. Squash (5%) 12. Rugby union (1%)
13. Motor sports (10%) 13. Yachting or sailing (6%) 13. Rugby union (5%) 13. Netball (1%)
14. Horse riding (9%) 14. Volleyball (6%) 14. Bowls - indoor (4%) 14. Rowing (1%)
15. Squash (9%) 15. Horse riding (6%) 15. Volleyball (4%) 15. Soccer (1%)

Note: The figures are for participation in the last 12 months and show the percentage of people taking part in each sport.

Top fifteen sports for New Zealand adults of different cultures

Maori European New Zealander Other cultures
1. Touch football (25%) 1. Golf (19%) 1. Golf (13%)
2. Netball (20%) 2. Tennis (12%) 2. Volleyball (13%)
3. Golf (14%) 3. Cricket (9%) 3. Cricket (13%)
4. Rugby (13%) 4. Skiing (8%) 4. Tennis (12%)
5. Basketball (12%) 5. Touch (8%) 5. Badminton (12%)
6. Tennis (11%) 6. Motor sports (7%) 6. Touch football (11%)
7. Rugby league (9%) 7. Yachting or sailing (7%) 7. Basketball (10%)
8. Cricket (9%) 8. Netball (6%) 8. Rugby union (9%)
9. Softball (6%) 9. Shooting (5%) 9. Soccer (7%)
10. Motor sports (5%) 10. Horse riding (5%) 10. Netball (7%)
11. Squash (5%) 11. Bowls - lawn (5%) 11. Rugby league (7%)
12. Horse riding (5%) 12. Bowls - indoor (5%) 12. Horse riding (4%)
13. Shooting (5%) 13. Basketball (5%) 13. Cricket - indoor (4%)
14. Soccer (5%) 14. Squash (5%) 14. Bowls - indoor (3%)
15. Volleyball (5%) 15. Rugby union (5%) 15. Skiing (3%)

Note: The figures are for participation in the last 12 months and show the percentage of people taking part in each sport.



Top 10 physical activities

Top 10 physical activities for New Zealand adults
Men Women
1. Walking (59%) 746,200 1. Walking (80%) 1,092,300
2. Gardening (53%) 675,200 2. Gardening (69%) 941,500
3. Fishing (37%) 464,500 3. Swimming (39%) 527,100
4. Swimming (34%) 429,000 4. Exercising at home (34%) 466,000
5. Exercising at home (24%) 300,800 5. Exercise classes or gym (19%) 258,100
6. Exercise classes or gym (19%) 234,800 6. Aerobics (17%) 236,400
7. Cycling (16%) 198,000 7. Fishing (15%) 198,400
8. Running or jogging (16%) 198,000 8. Cycling (13%) 179,300
9. Tramping (12%) 154,800 9. Running or jogging (10%) 131,800
10. Mountain biking (10%) 128,200 10. Tramping (9%) 123,600

Note: The figures are for participation in the last 12 months and show the percentage and number of people taking part in each activity. The percentages are rounded to the nearest whole number and the number of participants in each activity are rounded to the nearest 100 and are calculated using the percentages before rounding. The figures for walking are for all walks for exercise and enjoyment which lasted for 10 minutes or more. 35% of men and 50% of women went for short walks (10-30 minutes), while 34% of men and 50% of women went for long walks (over 30 minutes). Some people go for short and long walks and so the figures for these two categories sum to more than the total for walking.

18-24 years 25-34 years 35-49 years 50+ years
1. Walking (58%) 1. Walking (68%) 1. Walking (74%) 1. Gardening (76%)
2. Swimming (52%) 2. Gardening (54%) 2. Gardening (67%) 2. Walking (73%)
3. Exercise classes or gym (43%) 3. Swimming (46%) 3. Swimming (41%) 3. Exercising at home (23%)
4. Exercising at home (33%) 4. Exercising at home (34%) 4. Exercising at home (31%) 4. Swimming (20%)
5. Fishing (27%) 5. Fishing (30%) 5. Fishing (30%) 5. Fishing (18%)
6. Gardening (26%) 6. Exercise classes or gym (25%) 6. Cycling (17%) 6. Exercise classes or gym (7%)
7. Running or jogging (26%) 7. Cycling (19%) 7. Exercise classes or gym (17%) 7. Tramping (7%)
8. Cycling (26%) 8. Running or jogging (18%) 8. Running or jogging (13%) 8. Cycling (4%)
9. Aerobics (24%) 9. Aerobics (16%) 9. Tramping (13%) 9. Aquarobics (4%)
10. Surfing or body boarding (18%) 10. Mountain biking (12%) 10. Aerobics (11%) 10. Running or jogging (3%)

Note: The figures are for participation in the last 12 months and show the percentage of people taking part in each activity.



Maori European New Zealander Other cultures
1. Walking (62%) 1. Walking (72%) 1. Walking (68%)
2. Gardening (50%) 2. Gardening (65%) 2. Gardening (48%)
3. Swimming (38%) 3. Swimming (36%) 3. Swimming (36%)
4. Exercising at home (33%) 4. Exercising at home (29%) 4. Exercising at home (28%)
5. Fishing (32%) 5. Fishing (25%) 5. Exercise classes/gym (22%)
6. Exercise classes/gym (24%) 6. Exercise classes/gym (18%) 6. Fishing (22%)
7. Aerobics (18%) 7. Cycling (15%) 7. Running/jogging (9%)
8. Cycling (18%) 8. Running/jogging (13%) 8. Cycling (9%)
9. Running/jogging (13%) 9. Tramping (12%) 9. Aerobics (8%)
10. Tramping (8%) 10. Aerobics (10%) 10. Aquarobics (4%)

Note: The figures are for participation in the last 12 months and show the percentage of people taking part in each activity.

Annual and 4-week participation rates

For annual and 4-week participation rates for all the sports and activities covered by the survey click on the titles (pdfs) below:

Updated | 13 Oct 2005.

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