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SPARC Facts 1997-2001

Definitions and points to note

The Sport and Physical Activity Survey – people selected for the survey in each of the 12 regions are interviewed in their own homes. People aged 18 and over are asked about all the sport and active leisure they have done in the last 12 months, last four weeks, and last two weeks, to provide annual, four-week and two-week participation rates. The annual participation rates are reported in this document.

Everyone is also asked about the time they spent taking part in their chosen sports and activities in the last seven days, and on how many of these days they were active for at least 30 minutes. The time adults spend on their chosen sports and activities is added up to give a measure of how active they are over a week – active and inactive as defined on page 53.

Information was collected about young people's participation in sport and active leisure. If there was more than one 5-17-year-old at an address, one young person was chosen for the survey at random. Questions about the young person's participation were answered by the adult who was interviewed, although the young person could help answer the questions if they were present during the interview. Information was collected about all the sport and active leisure young people had done in the last two weeks. This short timeframe was used because adults were more likely to know about young people's recent behaviour. The time young people spend on their chosen sports and activities was added up to find out how active they were over a week.

The results are analysed so that they are representative of all people living in New Zealand. The Sport and Physical Activity Survey is a sample survey, and so the results are estimates that lie within a range, which is the margin of error, or sampling error. The sampling errors associated with key figures for people (across all three surveys) are shown below.

As an example, results show that 68% of adults are active, but there is a 95% chance that the actual figure lies between 68% +/- a margin of error of 1.0%, or between 67.0% and 69.0%. Readers should be careful when comparing two figures with a small difference between them as, when the margins of error are applied, the figures may be within the same range, and so the two results may be the same. Readers also should note that margins of error for the young people's estimates are relatively high because the sample sizes are small.

Areas of questioning – The following areas of questioning were not asked in the 1997/98 survey and, therefore, reported results are based on the 1998/1999 and the 2000/2001 surveys only: Māori sports or active leisure activities; reasons why people are spending more/less time taking part in sport or active leisure activities; sources of information that have impacted on participation levels; individual sports and active leisure activities that young people participated in before, during and after school hours (only the total time spent participating was); and adults’ awareness of sporting programmes that the Hillary Commission/SPARC developed for young people and their awareness of regional sports trusts.

Adults Survey estimate 95% confidence interval (+/-) Young People Survey estimate 95% confidence interval (+/-)
Active 68% 1.0% Active 68% 2.2.%
Participate in at least one sport or activity in sport or activity in the last 12 months 98% 0.3% Take part in at least one sport or activity in the last 2 weeks 92%


Definitions of terms used in this document

Physically active/inactive




Physically inactive


No sports/leisure-time physical activities in the 4 weeks before the interview (2 weeks for young people)

Relatively inactive

Took part in some leisure-time physical activity in the 4 weeks before the interview (but not necessarily the last 7 days), and all those who took part in less than 2.5 hours in the seven days before the interview

Physically active

Relatively active

Took part in at least 2.5 hours, but less than 5 hours of sport/leisure-time physical activity in the 7 days before the interview

Highly active

Took part in 5 hours or more of sport/leisuretime physical activity in the 7 days before the interview

Regularly active
30 minutes of physical activity (sport/active leisure) on five or more days of the week. While there are health benefits from doing a total of at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week there are considered to be further health benefits from being physically active on most days of the week (i.e. regularly active) as recommended in the physical activity guidelines Movement=Health.
The ethnicity question in the sport and physical activity survey is based on self-identification with an ethnic group. The four categories are: a New Zealander of Māori descent or part-Māori, a New Zealander of European descent/other European, a person of Pacific Island descent, or other ethnic group (i.e. those people who have not identified as Māori, European or Pacific Islands peoples and includes young people and adults from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and other countries).
Sport and active leisure
This definition includes over 100 different physical activities which people do in their leisure time, ranging from gardening to New Zealand's most popular national sports. Active leisure excludes pastimes such as reading, spectating and board games.
Sporting activity
The figures for sporting activity exclude those adults whose only active leisure in the last 12 months was walking or gardening as well as the 2% who had done no sport or active leisure in the last year.
Means actively taking part in sport and active leisure.
People who play/take part in sport and active leisure.
Includes sport and physical activity clubs and associations, gyms and fitness centres, workplace and social clubs, and any “other” clubs people belong to in order to take part in a sport and active leisure. Only people who are “active” members, i.e. play or take part in a sport/activity at a club are counted.
Organised sport/active leisure competition
For adults this includes participation in any organised competition, at any level from a local league to international competition, while for young people participation in inter-school competitions is reported.
Refers to coaching, training, or instruction to improve participants' performance in a chosen sport/physical activity.
Couch Potato Index (CPI)
Measures how regularly people participate in a sport or active leisure for at least 30 minutes a day over one week. In particular, it identifies the proportion of people who are active on various numbers of days in a week. The 30 minutes can be made of, for example, 10 minutes of walking and 20 minutes of swimming.