More than a million extra people have become active in the last four years, with increasing numbers of women and older people lacing up their trainers, new research suggests.
Activity levels have peaked, with 1,015,700 more people estimated to be active now, compared with when the Active Lives Survey began in 2015.
Someone is measured as active if they do 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week, according to Sport England, which published the survey.
The poll also found the lowest ever level of people doing less than 30 minutes of activity a week, with 131,700 fewer people not meeting this threshold since 2015.
The survey involved 177,876 adults aged 16 or over, who were questioned between May 2018 and May 2019.
It found that more women and older people are getting a sweat on, following campaigns such as This Girl Can, and a £10 million fund for projects that support people 55 and over to get active.
There has also been an increase in people with disabilities or long-term health conditions exercising.
However they are twice as likely to be inactive than people without these conditions or disabilities, while poorer people are the most likely group to not exercise.
Active respondents reported being more satisfied with their lives, happier, more likely to feel the things they do in life are worthwhile and less anxious.
Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England chief executive, said: “It’s really excellent news that a record number of people are now active every week and that we’re also seeing a significant decrease in the amount of inactive people.
“It shows us that efforts to help more people get active are starting to make a real difference, particularly for older adults, women and those with a disability or long-term health condition.
“But we can’t be complacent. Within the overall positive picture of these figures is a sobering reality – if you are well-off you are far more likely to be active than if you’re on a low income or less affluent.
“While there are complex barriers that stop less well-off people from getting active, this is an unacceptable inequality and one we’re starting to address in the work we are doing across the country – including piloting programmes in 12 local areas to tackle inequality.”
Claire Turner, director of evidence at the Centre for Ageing Better, said: “Staying active is important at all ages, and as we get older it’s crucial that we keep moving.
“In particular, activities that improve our strength and balance can help us stay healthy as we age and help us keep our ability to do everyday tasks, such as still being able to bath and dress without assistance or cook a meal on our own.
“From tennis to tai chi, there’s a huge range of activities for us to choose from that strengthen our muscles and improve our balance.
“But many of us don’t realise the difference these can make to our health and wellbeing as we grow older, so there’s still work to do to raise awareness and make sure no-one misses out.”
The survey found that walking for leisure or travel remains the most popular activity, while weight sessions, yoga and pilates are becoming increasingly popular.
Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive of the Ramblers charity, which promotes walking, said: “We’re delighted that the latest Active Lives survey reports walking for leisure or travel as the most popular form of activity across England, with 19.6 million adults (16+) walking at least twice a month – with 514,000 more people walking for leisure since the last survey.”