In 2016 the percentage of people declaring to practise one or more sports in their free time reached the record figure of 34.8%, corresponding to over 20 million people. In 1959, when the topic was first surveyed by ISTAT, the National Statistics Institute, sport was practised by a limited number of people (just over a million people), mainly male (90.8%) adults (only 1% were children under 14 year old); hunting was the most common activity (33%), followed, needless to say, by football (22.3%).
Who practices sports and why?
Nowadays the majority of Italian practising sport in their free time are still males, but the share of females increased significantly over time reaching 40% of the total. Children under 14 years of age make up 1/5 of sports enthusiasts, with 6 out of 10 boys and 1 in 2 girls regularly practising sports. Football is the most common activity among boys (38.5%) – followed by volleyball, tennis, basket and athletics – whereas gymnastics, aerobics and fitness are more popular among women (38.7% of females).
People practise sport as a leisure activity and to keep fit; young people like its recreational aspect, the possibility to socialise and the important values it conveys. On the other hand, lack of time and interest are the main reasons preventing people from practising sport (38.6% and 32.8% respectively), in addition to economic issues for 13.8% of respondents. The report also highlights significant differences in the level of sport practised between Northern and Southern Italy, even when considering younger people. Sport can play a major part in fostering inclusion and tolerance.
Disability and sport
An interesting increase was recorded in the number of projects aimed at introducing people with disabilities to sport: nowadays almost 20% of adult people with serious limitations practise sport. These data are confirmed when consulting the financial statements approved by the Lega Nazionale Professionisti di Serie B (the national association of football players of the second division), which highlight that among the purposes of the association is the creation of sport and social value through the diffusion of sport ethics and its values, basing on the understanding of rules and their respect.
A particular focus is on young people playing football and the educational role sports plays together with - and sometimes replacing - the typical role played by families; on training the trainers; on developing new talents, as well as facilities; on the sporting, physical and cultural growth of young people, in order to avoid creating false illusions and transmitting instead positive values to shape their future.
Italians practice more sport
The report also highlights the strong increase in the number of people practising sport on a regular basis. Overall, Italians practise more sport, in a more differentiated and less structured way, they appreciate its leisure aspect, enjoy the physical benefits and its social role - especially young people, for whom sport is an integral part of their education. Of course some critical aspects remain: accessibility (particularly for families in difficult situations) and the improvement of plants and facilities. An irreplaceable role is still plaid by families in transmitting positive lifestyles and schools in promoting sports.