Speak Welsh, be more physically active

I must admit to being very pleasantly surprised by the substantial increase in the percentage of adults in Wales who have taken up sport or other physical activity in the last few years. The increase of 34% between 2008 and 2012 is quite remarkable, particularly because of the contrast to what is happening in neighbouring countries.

     Fitness bug sees activity levels soar across Wales

As people might expect, I wanted to look at these figures more closely. The full report from Sport Wales is entitled The State of the Nation – although I'd have thought A Nation Fit for Purpose might be a little snappier – and the figures are available in spreadsheet form here.

It probably won't be much of a surprise that younger adults participate in sport more than older adults, males participate more than females, and those in richer households participate more than those in poorer households. It is one of the sad realities of life that richer people tend to be more active, tend to eat more healthy food, tend to be less prone to illness, and as a result tend to live longer than those who are poorer. This is the main reason why we, as a society, need to do much more to narrow the scandalous gap between rich and poor.


However there were three other groups in which participation rates in sport showed a more unexpected difference.

First, those who identify themselves as Christians are much less involved in sport than those who have no religion or are agnostic. The sample size for other religions was probably too small to be reliable. I'd be interested in people's opinions on why this might be.

Second, those who are gay, lesbian or bisexual are much more involved in sport than those who are straight. I think this might be explained by fewer gay people tending to have children, and therefore having more money to spend on themselves and more time to get involved in sporting and leisure activities.

But the third group is people that speak Welsh, who for some reason are much more involved in sporting activity than those who don't speak Welsh. These are the percentages, with Welsh-speakers in bold:

No frequent activity ... 32.45% ... 42.83%

Once a week ... 12.08% ... 11.89%
Twice a week ... 9.83% ... 8.67%
Three or more times a week ... 45.63% ... 36.62%

Any participation in last four weeks ... 78.74% ... 67.58%

Sports club member ... 31.33% ... 25.50%

Volunteer in sport ... 15.09% ... 8.95%

In every single positive category there is a markedly greater percentage of Welsh-speakers than non-Welsh-speakers. I have spent the last few hours trying to figure out what would explain this. There doesn't seem to be any geographical basis for the difference.

There are studies (for example here) which show that Welsh-speakers are likely to be better educated, less likely to be unemployed and less likely to be in poor health ... factors which would clearly seem to be linked with earning some 8-10% more than non-Welsh-speakers. But this difference in earnings alone would not account for why Welsh-speakers are more involved in sport.

If we look at the tables in detail, the percentage of Welsh-speakers who participate in sporting activity three or more times a week (45.63%) is roughly equal to the participation of people in households with an income of £31,200 to £51,999 (46.99%), and the percentage of non-Welsh-speakers who participate in sporting activity three or more times a week (36.62%) is roughly equal to the participation of people in households with an income of £15,600 to £20,799 (36.37%) ... but Welsh-speakers obviously don't earn twice as much as non-Welsh-speakers.

This means that speaking Welsh, in and of itself, strongly correlates with being more physically active in a way that can't easily be explained by other factors.

As I said, I'm at a loss to figure out why this is so, and would welcome people's thoughts on the subject. But if you are someone who wants to be more physically active, it looks like one answer is to learn Welsh ... or perhaps it's the other way round: if you're struggling to learn Welsh, the key might be to become more physically active.

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Anonymous said...

Well, there are Welsh speakers and Welsh speakers. Just as there sporty types and sporty types.

Might I suggest that most 'Welsh speakers' of whatever kind are more prone to exaggeration than non-Welsh speakers. From this it might also follow that Welsh speakers are similarly prone to exaggerate their sportiness.

Either way, it's bad news for S4C. Sportiness is clearly killing their business.

BoiCymraeg said...

My hypothesis - and I have no evidence for this, but it's what I'd assume - is that it may have something to do wtih the fact that Welsh speakers are disproportionately well-represented in education, careers which may go hand in hand with sport - it certainly might explain why double the number of Welsh speakers are sports volunteers.

Anonymous said...

Difficult to say if it's effect or cause MH, but one thing I know, Welsh-speakers, learners and supporters will be running for the Welsh language in the Ras yr Iaith which will be held on Friday 20 June. http://rasyriaith.org/

It's based on other very successful language relays in Ireland, Brittany and the Basque Country - you're welcome to join in MH. A chance to keep healthy and support the language!

Here's an article on Daily Wales: http://dailywales.net/2014/05/01/run-for-your-iaith/

And you can follow us on Twitter too www.twitter.com/rasyriaith

Maybe it's the communal nature of so much Welsh-language events which means we all do a little more (either through desire or a feeling of guilt for letting the language down if we don't join in!).

In any case, this will be the first ever Ras yr Iaith, passing the baton, like the language through 9 downs between Machynlleth and Cardigan. Join us.

Siôn Jobbins

Anonymous said...

Handling Geiriadur yr Academi is a form of weightlifting.

Anonymous said...

Did they take their sample of Welsh speakers from Sgubor Goch? Nah.

Anonymous said...

Welsh speakers are more civilised than english monoglots

Anonymous said...

05:16, I think that is one of the easier matters to disprove. English & German speakers are generally regarded as the most civilized forms of human development.

Anonymous said...

I've got a reason why Christians might be less involved in sport than non-Christians.......

......the subconscious desire to get to heaven a few years earlier.

Anonymous said...

I agree with those that have said those with better education and more money are factors but my take on the survey results it that it doesn’t give a breakdown of where the welsh speakers live, most people tend to forget that the great Cardiff area has one of the largest welsh speaking populations in Wales and that could explain at least part of the increase, Cardiff has facilities for almost every kind of sport of physical activity you or you family could want from football, rugby, swimming, cycling, walking to gymnastics and ice skating.

I also think that welsh speakers where ever they are in Wales are more likely to be involved in their local communities which could explain the volunteering and if parents are volunteering kids are likely to be involved in whatever those activities are sport or arts etc.

Also at least one welsh sports governing bodies has partnership with the Urdd, I know from my niece that gymnastics have an annual competition with the Urdd that attracts a couple of thousands welsh speaking boys and girls to heats and final from across Wales, maybe other sports like hockey, netball, badminton etc also have links.

On a more controversial note being able to speak welsh like being a sportsman or woman is about identity perhaps for some people the two are mutually reinforcing.

Anonymous said...

Off Topic I know but thought you might be interested in this in case you haven't seen it already


MH said...

Yes, I think it is quite likely that the Urdd might have something to do with it, 11:52. Although it is worth remembering that this survey is about adults (well, those over 15). Perhaps the good habits instilled by the Urdd are being carried forward from childhood into adulthood.

Sport Wales, the group that commission the Active Adults Survey, certainly recognize the value of what the Urdd do and awarded them a £250,000 grant to help them develop their good work, details here. But this was only announced in 2012, and this latest survey was conducted in 2012. So this extra funding can't have had any effect on the percentage of adults involved in sport in this survey, although I'm sure it will have an effect in future years.


Thanks, 13:17. If anyone is wary of clicking the link without knowing what it is, it is a consultation document on the various options for a new Welsh-medium school in Grangetown/Butetown, and an increase in English-medium places.

I'll probably write something on it later, but had already set out the options and my views as to which would be best in this post. In fact, the document and maps seem to be remarkably similar to what I wrote ... but that's a good thing.

On reading through it, it is a little bit of a surprise to see that Cardiff are holding open the possibility of any of these six sites being used as a Welsh-medium school, including the ones which currently house English-medium schools. That would, of course, mean closing down the EM school concerned.

Although I welcome the extra flexibility, it does sound like a recipe for potential conflict. And I think it would be better to avoid that sort of conflict if possible.

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