Mountaineering is among the sports showing an increase in participation, according to the latest figures published by Sport England in its annual survey of the nation's sporting habits.
The latest figures from the Active People Survey show that there are now 93,000 people going 'mountaineering' on a weekly basis, an increase in 16,000 on last year's stats.
Other sport showing an increase are team sports such as football, cricket, netball and rugby union, plus other sports including athletics, canoeing, taekwondo and fencing.
However, 125,000 fewer people did some kind of sport once a week for 30 minutes, according to figures for the 12 months up to October 2014.
Sport England expressed particular disappointment in the dramatic decrease in people going swimming (the country's most popular sport), as well as the down-turn in disabled people playing sport regularly and the persistent gap between men's and women's participation.
Jennie Price, Sport England’s Chief Executive, said: “I am disappointed with these figures, and I’m very concerned about the drop in swimming, which dominates the overall picture. If swimming’s figures had been flat, we’d be looking at an overall increase in participation."
Encouragingly, despite a dip in the latest figures, the number of disabled people participating in mountaineering has increased by 4,700 in the last two years. The BMC Paraclimbing Series is showing increased popularity year on year and provides a way for people with disabilities to try out climbing alongside others with disabilities.
Sport England has reported that the gender gap remains stubborn with 1.75 million fewer women than men active, despite over 70 per cent of 14-40 year old women wanting to be more active.
This further demonstrates the need for Sport England’s new This Girl Can campaign, launched earlier this month, aimed at giving women more confidence to exercise. Since its launch, over 12 million people have watched the campaign’s film online and hundreds of thousands of women have engaged positively with it.
Despite anecdotal evidence of more women at climbing walls and crags, the latest figures show a decrease in women participating in mountaineering. The BMC has significantly upped its output of films and articles about women in the last year and is actively supporting This Girl Can.
Overall, the figures show that 25,600 people (aged 16+ in England) participate in indoor climbing at least once a week and 59,300 participate in outdoor climbing at least once a week. Whereas the number of people who particpate monthly is 56,100 (indoor climbing) and 132,400 for outdoor climbing.
The Active People Survey 8 figures relate to the period from October 2013 to October 2014. We'll have to wait until the next set of results to see whether the This Girl Can campaign and the recent surge of interest in climbing following the spectacular Dawn Wall ascent, inspires more people to take up the sport.
This Girl Can is a national campaign designed to encourage more women and girls to get active. The campaign is funded by Sport England and the National Lottery.