Body & Fitness

Yoga surges in popularity, while organised sport is in decline in New Zealand

While individual fitness pursuits like yoga are exploding in New Zealand, Kiwi adults are less likely to be involved in organised and club sports now.

Yoga is now one of New Zealand’s most popular forms of exercise, with figures showing its practice has grown by more than 500 per cent in the last 10 years.

The surge in popularity has seen a burgeoning of yoga providers (studios and teachers) and yoga support organisations, with classes popping up in town halls, dedicated studios or in gyms – and then there are the apps and online classes that people can do from home.

Exercise New Zealand chief executive Richard Beddie believes the exponential growth can be attributed to yoga’s versatility.

“Yoga is both valuable as an activity in its own right, as well as being extremely complimentary to lots of other exercise activities. It is very common now for a regular gym user to add in yoga as a part of balance.”

Relief from stress is also a key factor.

“Stress is almost a given in a developed country and, as a result, the mindful component of yoga is so beneficial and desired. While yoga can vary in physical intensity, it always provides people with the best methods of being mindful, which is something that so many people benefit from and seek in today’s busy lifestyles.”

Yoga enjoys exponential growth in New Zealand

A national yoga advocate and teacher Persephone Singfield says her students report significant changes in their lives after attending yoga courses.

“They sleep deeper, they are happier, less stressed and are practicing the tools that yoga gives them every day,” she says.

A Lincoln University international PhD student Tilak Raj is teaching yoga to Lincoln University rugby players as part of his doctoral research, to see if yoga is really helpful in reducing injuries and improving performance.

While we can’t get enough of yoga and ‘exercise’ per se (individual fitness pursuits such as walking, cycling, going to the gym), we are less involved in club and organised sports than we were in the late 1990s.

A new report from Sport New Zealand, Sport and Active Recreation in New Zealand – 16-Year Adult Participation Trends 1998 to 2014, shows that New Zealanders’ involvement in club and organised sports has declined.

The findings come from comparing and analysing the results of three Active New Zealand Surveys that were completed in 1998, 2007 and 2014. A total of 16,023 adults were surveyed.

Key findings:

  • National weekly participation in sport and active recreation for adults aged 18 plus decreased by 8 per cent (although this decline is less when walking is excluded)

  • Younger adults (18 to 24 year olds, and 25 to 34 year olds) showed the biggest declines of 14 per cent and 10 per cent respectively

  • Those aged 50 to 64 actually bucked the national trend, and showed an increase in sports participation (when walking is excluded)

  • The rate and pattern of decline varies for different ethnic groups, the largest being 11 per cent among Pacific adults

  • Sports club membership has decreased by 11 per cent but fitness centre membership has increased by 4 per cent

In the report’s foreword Chief Executive of Sport New Zealand Peter Miskimmin suggests, “For generations, sport and active recreation have played a significant part in the lives of New Zealanders. Our world, however, is changing. Life for many New Zealanders has become busier and time more precious. At the same time, lifestyles are becoming less active.”

Last year Sport New Zealand launched a new Community Sport Strategy that focuses on the needs and wants of New Zealanders today, rather than expecting people to continue to take up what the sport system has traditionally provided.

“Through our Community Sport work – and our ongoing research and insights programmes – both Sport NZ and the sector will be better informed and better placed to ensure sport continues to enrich the lives of New Zealanders.”

WATCH: Yoga for digestion to try at home

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