Gyms and leisure centres should make booking fitness and sport activities online as easy as hailing an Uber to help improve the nation’s health, a minister has said.
Sport minister Mims Davies intervened as a poll suggested twice as many people find ordering takeaway food online easier than booking exercise classes, sport pitches and courts.
According to ComRes, more than two thirds (68%) of people found it easy to order delivery food compared to around a third (34%) who found booking sport or fitness classes online simple.
Even more (73%) found it easier to book a holiday on the internet than book space and time for exercise.
A fifth of adults have been put off doing sport or physical activity because it is too difficult to find or book online, the research suggested.
The figures prompted Davies and Sport England to urge councils, leisure centres, sport clubs and other providers to open up their data so innovators and entrepreneurs can develop apps and websites that make booking a football pitch or tennis court as easy as concert tickets.
Sport England has also awarded £1.5m of National Lottery funding to the Open Data Institute to give activity providers the tools and training to open their data.
Not being able to easily plan and book online potentially puts many people off doing more physical activity
Davies said: “It should be as easy to book a court, football pitch or exercise class as it is to order your favourite takeaway or hire a cab.
“Not being able to easily plan and book online potentially puts many people off doing more physical activity.
“By opening up data we can remove barriers to taking part, make it much easier for people to get active and promote much needed digital innovation.”
Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth added: “There is a significant prize to be won here if the sport and physical activity sector seizes the opportunity to embrace digital innovation and open up their data.
“Our survey shows that at the moment there are too many barriers to entry. So, this is about giving the public the choice to find sport and physical activity in a way that meets the expectations they have in all other aspects of their lives.
“But it is also about creating the conditions for brilliant, creative young start-ups and innovators across England to come up with big digital ideas and solutions that are as diverse as the needs of the public.”
He added: “Now is the time for the whole sector to collaborate to reach millions more people, remove the barriers they face and supercharge the number of people getting active in England for the health of our nation.”
Sport England’s latest research shows that although activity levels are rising, there are still 16.8m people who aren’t reaching the recommended 150 minutes of exercise a week to benefit their health.
Within these figures there are stubborn inequalities. People on low incomes, women, black and South Asian people are less active than the general population.
ComRes surveyed 1,815 English adults between April 18 and 22.