Fitness: Physical activity and sport directly contributing to happiness

Physical activity makes individuals happier and healthier.

Physical activity and sport are directly contributing to happiness, levels of trust and mental wellbeing in cities across the world, according to a new report from the Active Citizens Worldwide network.

A global initiative established to help cities across the world achieve a step-change in physical activity levels for their citizens, Active Citizens Worldwide uses data and analytics to provide policymakers with increased knowledge and insight to help transform physical activity within their cities.

The findings, which draw on research and analysis from the cities of Auckland, London, Singapore and Stockholm conducted by leading global management consultancy, Portas Consulting, form part of the second Active Citizens Worldwide annual report.

The 2018 Active Citizens Worldwide report started to quantify the positive impact of sport and physical activity on individuals’ health and wellbeing. It showed that this impact extends beyond individuals, to communities and society more broadly, helping to mitigate some of the growing social challenges faced by cities.

But, participation in physical activity is in part driven by money, time and access – and hence the benefits of sport and physical activity are not shared equally. Unaddressed, this will only contribute to a widening of social inequality.

Now in its second year, Active Citizens Worldwide has gathered compelling evidence from its four member cities that sheds light on the complex systemic interplay between socio-economics, demographics, policy and physical activity. This growth in understanding stands to enable cities to better enable all parts of society to participation in sport and physical activity and, in doing so, to create happier, healthier and wealthier cities.

Across the four cities, key findings from the second Active Citizens Worldwide report include:

Physical activity makes individuals happier and healthier, with significant wider benefits to the city:

  • Physically active individuals report that they are 6% happier, 28% more trusting of community, report 6% higher life satisfaction, and 14% lower psychological distress levels
  • Physical activity contributes an estimated US$14bn to the economy across Auckland, London, Singapore and Stockholm combined generating $1.6bn in healthcare savings and US$0.5bn in productivity savings.

But, sport and physical activity reflects social inequalities; across all 4 Active Citizens Worldwide cities, socio-demographic trends highlighted last year have been confirmed:

  • Well-off individuals are up to 1.7 times more likely to be active than those worse off
  • Men are more likely to be active than women
    Inequality is often exacerbated by age – well-off individuals aged 25-49 are almost twice as likely to be active than those less well-off of the same age in Auckland.

Access to facilities plays a key role in addressing these inequalities:

  • In London and Singapore, there is a clear relationship between the availability of public facilities and levels of physical activity among the least well-off
  • Across all cities, access to facilities is related to activity – with more active areas on average having up to 2.5x more facilities (public and private) than less active areas

Specific Auckland findings include:

  • Physically active individuals in Auckland report higher levels of life satisfaction
  • Ethnic groups (Pacific and Asian peoples) with lower levels of physical activity in Auckland actually show higher levels of motivation to be active than other groups.

The report also shows that each physically active individual generates an average of US$1,900 in social value in a city in the Active Citizens Worldwide network.

Nicola Gamble, Insights Manager – Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation, said: “The Active Citizens Worldwide Annual Report and Conference gives us the opportunity to work with, share ideas and learn from other cities as we all strive to address the growing global issue of inactivity. Active Citizens Worldwide has helped us use the data we have better, and to fill gaps in our knowledge, so that we can advocate more effectively and encourage more evidence-based decision making and investment for Auckland.”

The Active Citizens Worldwide annual report can be found at

More information on the initiative can be found at

About Aktive – Auckland Sport & Recreation
Aktive is a charitable trust that has been established to make Auckland the world’s most active city. It is a key strategic partner of Sport NZ, Auckland Council and major grant makers and funders. Aktive invests more than $10m per annum in a range of delivery partners, organisations and projects that will get more people actively recreating and playing sport in Auckland, with focuses on young people and priority communities.

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