July 2024: Special issue
Gen Z women are more engaged with physical activity than previous generations, finds Ernst & Young research

04 Jun 2024

According to new research from Ernst & Young, the gap between female and male engagement in sport and physical activity is narrowing, with Gen Z adult female engagement figures on the rise.

The EY Sports Engagement Index surveys more than 4,000 UK adults and uses comparative data to identify engagement levels across a range of sports by measuring the number of adults who are actively participating, attending sporting events or following a sport on TV/online/on social media.

Forty-nine per cent of females in the UK engage with sports and physical activity in some way; with 18- to 24-year-olds being the most engaged at 66 per cent, compared to 79 per cent of males of this age.

For the over 55s, there is a bigger gender gap: 37 per cent of females compared with 66 per cent of males.

Tal Hewitt, sports strategy lead at EY-Parthenon, says Gen Z behaviour is markedly different from other demographics and this interest in sport is likely to continue to build: “Our understanding of Gen Z leads us to believe that it’s possible more of these younger female engagers will remain engaged with sport through their lives," she said. "Over time this is likely to impact not only how sports need to engage with their fan bases, but also which sports will top the leaderboards in terms of popularity.

“Sports organisations must recognise and adapt to the needs of their current and future female audience to avoid being left behind. By nurturing female participation, attendance and followership, they can ensure this vibrant fanbase continues to grow and evolve, retaining engagement throughout women's lives, and ultimately, reshaping the industry for decades to come.”

The figures
In the UK alone, the Index suggests 13 million women follow or participate in sports, and/or attend some form of sports event, compared to 18 million men. Female engagers are also becoming very important contributors to most of the UK’s top 20 sports. For example, they constitute over a third of the engagement base in football and nearly 30 per cent in Rugby Union.

Females show high engagement with endurance and lifestyle sports. Making up 39 per cent of runners; 36 per cent of cyclists; 44 per cent of tennis players and 46 per cent of badminton players, all of which feed into the health and fitness sector.

Women also dominate studio-, spa- and health club-based wellness activities, such as yoga, HIIT classes, dance-based workouts and Pilates (64 per cent) and gymnastics (72 per cent).

The sports resonating less with females are cricket, snooker, Formula E, MMA, American football, boxing and weightlifting.

The report also shows that female engagement correlates with participation and of the top 20 sports for female engagement, 11 are leaders in female participation.

Female participation often focuses on activities with low barriers to entry, such as running, cycling, hiking, wellness, dance and aerobics workouts. These are all accessible, with physical health benefits and many also foster community.

Apart from netball, few traditional team sports rank highly on the female participation charts.

Women’s sports are helping to shift the dial in terms of female engagement figures, but there's still progress to be made. Apart from cycling, gymnastics, badminton and skiing, men currently drive most of the engagement with women’s sporting formats.

Women’s formats for cycling and badminton show the highest gender shift of all the sports considered, as both of them pivot from being male-driven for the male format to female-driven for the female format, making them the sports that are most evolved in terms of women driving the agenda.

The EY Index highlights the importance of mixed-gender formats in driving participation. This is particularly true for tennis and badminton, with 17 per cent of tennis players only engaging in the mixed format of the sport.

Tom Kingsley, sports industry group leader at EY, explains why it is so important for sport and physical activity providers to target women: “If sports work to properly understand female engagers, they can serve, grow, and monetise this engagement base more successfully.

“Sports that successfully engage a female fanbase – such as tennis – give themselves a larger market to target and a better chance of winning when competing for family time, attention and budget. By doing so, they also extend their appeal to a broader range of commercial partners.

“Understanding the opportunities that lie within the female sports engagement population, including the evolution of women’s sporting formats and the new trends being set by Gen Z, will help to plan for future growth and engagement strategies. Ignoring these shifts could mean missing out on substantial segments of the audience that are poised to shape the future of sport.”

Given reports of an enjoyment gap between men and women and consistent findings that women’s participation lags behind men’s, for example, Sport England’s Active Lives Adults Report , and Nuffield’s Healthier Nation Index it’s heartening to see this gap is narrowing. It gives hopes that the change could come from the younger generations: Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People’s Report 22-23 revealed the most significant gains in participation levels were made among girls aged 13 to 16.

Like the Index, Active Lives found a flat trend in team sport participation, apart from in basketball and football, which are two sports working hard to be seen as relevant and engage new audiences. Active Lives also found walking, going to the gym and fitness had all increased last year compared to five years ago.

Latest member news
New pilot to tackle hypertension
A collaboration between two GP surgeries and Wave Active, the operator of local sports and leisure centres, will see patients in Seaford, East Sussex with early signs of hypertension undergo a programme of education and supervised physical activity to reduce the risks of developing a health condition associated with hypertension.

Online classes introduced for people recently out of hospital
Online live exercise classes will soon launch in Cheshire East targeting people who have recently left hospital, are deconditioned (seen a decline in physical function due to inactivity or bedrest) and/or unable to access their local health and leisure services in-person.

Activity on referral ‘fastest growing membership’ type for Trilogy Active
Midlands based Trilogy Active who operate the NHS Activity of Referral Scheme across Northamptonshire have shared that over 880 people are staying active after being referred to the scheme by their GP.

Get fit for surgery
Each year, Edinburgh Leisure’s Active Communities programme uses the power of physical activity to support over 12,000 disadvantaged people across the city to improve their health and wellbeing.

Vitality programme grows by 40% in East Renfrewshire
East Renfrewshire residents have praised an exercise programme, aimed at supporting those with medical conditions to be active and connected, whilst increasing their fitness levels.

Worcestershire man loses almost half his body weight as part of incredible transformation
Sheldon Donavon, 32 from Malvern, who attends the Freedom Leisure centres in both Worcester and Malvern, has lost over 13 stone in body weight.

Praise for Health for Heroes
An army veteran from Barrhead has praised East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure's Health for Heroes initiative, which offers free health and wellbeing support for veterans.

Conquering diabetes with GLL
Vinod Mistry is living proof that you can manage diabetes long-term through diet and exercise - and go on to complete some of the world’s most gruelling physical challenges.

From quadruple bypass to confident gym user
David Irving knows the power of positive lifestyle change, thanks to support from Everybody Health & Leisure.

High Life Highland Introduce Dynamic Wellbeing
High Life Highland has introduced a new class to its offering in Grantown-on-Spey which is aimed at older adults who might benefit from some gentle exercise to help them manage long term health conditions or mobility problems.

Horizon Leisure’s Wellbeing Hub celebrates first birthday
Charitable leisure trust, Horizon Leisure is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the first-of-its-kind Health and Wellbeing Hub based at a shopping mall in Havant.

£17M social value figure shows health & wellbeing contribution for Mytime Active
Social enterprise, Mytime Active, generated a social value in excess of £17 million for its neighbourhood economies last year.

Pendle Leisure Trust case study – Lighter and More Active
Alan was referred to the Up & Active Team six months ago via the Pendle Primary Care Network health and wellbeing coach service.

From lifting weights to benefit menopause to paying closer attention to equipment for those with impairment – Burnley's new look knows no barriers
Burnley Leisure and Culture have recently upgraded even more facilities with both St Peter’s and Padiham Leisure Centres newly refurbished gyms and cycling studios re-opening recently.

Mytime Active and The Bromley Children and Families Voluntary Sector Forum join forces to Support Young Mums
Mytime Active is working in partnership with Bromley Children and Families Voluntary Sector Forum (BCFF) to deliver twice-weekly free-swimming lessons for young mums aged 15 - 24 and their babies.

Britain at the bottom of the class when it comes to school swimming
New research by GLL highlights the importance of children’s swimming lessons as more primary schools reduce mandatory lessons.

more Community Leisure UK member news >>
Business partner news
● Charity Risk Focus
Welcome to the first edition of Charity Risk Focus — your update from Gallagher’s Charities team, helping you stay ahead in today’s challenging risk landscape. ...more
Latest industry news from leisureopportunities.co.uk
05 Jul 2024
CIMSPA launches online training and education hub
Industry body CIMSPA, which represents workers in the physical activity sector, has created an online platform to support training and career development.

04 Jul 2024
Edinburgh Leisure launches Nordic walking as part of its active ageing programme
Edinburgh Leisure is launching a six-week introduction to Nordic walking as part of its award- winning Ageing Well Project.

04 Jul 2024
Third Space is on a roll with the second of three 2024 club launches
Third Space is celebrating the launch of its 11th club in London at the historic Battersea Power Station development.

01 Jul 2024
Blackstone snaps up health club specialist, Village Hotels. Plans to grow the portfolio
Village Hotels has changed hands following a deal between the owner – an affiliate of KSL Capital Partners – and funds managed by Blackstone Real Estate in a deal thought to be in the region of £850 million (US$1.08 million).

27 Jun 2024
F45 now offering workouts on Strava
F45 Training has become the first health and fitness operator to make its functional/HIIT group workouts available on Strava, the digital community with 125 million members.

26 Jun 2024
PureGym supports ambulance service by adding defibrillators to The Circuit
PureGym has partnered with the British Heart Foundation to upload all of its defibrillators to The Circuit, which allows the ambulance service to access them in an emergency.

25 Jun 2024
Gymshark global reboot bids to own the gym community
Gymshark has launched a new global brand platform, We Do Gym, to make it clear the made-by- lifters-for-lifters apparel is aimed directly at the gym market.

22 Jun 2024
Nike and Hyperice collaborate on Paris 2024 recovery concept
Nike and recovery brand, Hyperice, have partnered to create two tech-driven recovery products – a vest and boots – ahead of Paris 2024.

more industry news >>
Regional Meetings
South West Regional Meeting
12 July 2024
Special Interest Groups
8 July 2024
Health Learning Session (England)
9 July 2024
Health Scotland
10 July 2024
Carbon Literacy
11 July 2024
Social Value
16 July 2024
18 July 2024
For more information about Special Interest Group and regional / national members meetings, please contact [email protected]
Job vacancies
Facility Manager - LSBU Active
Salary: £31,396 to £34,557, inclusive of £4,952 London Weighting
Location: London, UK
Company: London South Bank University
Read more and apply
Head of Operations
Salary: £56,107.80 - £63,165.86pa + benefits
Location: Dunfermline, UK
Company: Fife Sports and Leisure Trust Ltd
Read more and apply
Senior Leisure Officer
Salary: £41,418 - £48,474pa + local govt pension + benefits
Location: Honiton, UK
Company: East Devon District Council
Read more and apply
more job vacancies >>
Diary dates
03-05 Sep 2024
ASEAN Patio Pool Spa Expo
Bangkok, Thailand
08-10 Sep 2024
Salt Therapy Association Conference
Lake Buena Vista, United States
19-19 Sep 2024
Destination Deluxe Awards & Wellness Day 2024
Bangkok 10120, Thailand
20-22 Sep 2024
World Wellness Weekend
01-04 Oct 2024
Synergy - The Retreat Show
Kabupaten Badung, Indonesia
09-13 Oct 2024
Soul Festival
10 Oct 2024
VAC 2024
22-25 Oct 2024
24-24 Oct 2024
HCM Summit 2024
London, United Kingdom
04-07 Nov 2024
Global Wellness Summit (GWS)
St Andrews, United Kingdom
more diary dates >>
Business partners
Contact Community Leisure UK

Kirsty Cumming, Chief Executive

Tel: 020 7250 8263
[email protected]
Submit news

The Community Leisure UK ezine is published in association with leisureopportunities.co.uk

Please email news and images for consideration to [email protected]
Your subscription

This email is sent to you as a Community Leisure UK member benefit: to unsubscribe click here

To add a colleague to this mailing list click here

This e-zine is produced and distributed on behalf of Community Leisure UK by Leisure Media, publisher of Leisure Opportunities, HCM and Sports Management