Sports in England are incredibly popular, despite the sometimes cold, rainy weather. Let’s take a look at the top sports the English love to engage in, whether as members of a club, via private tuition, or in organised competitions. The British are a physically fit bunch!

Swimming in Sheffield, England, Britain, Sports in England

Photo Credit: Josh Dobson on Flickr

1. Swimming

According to the England Active People survey, over 2.5 million people take part in swimming, making it the most popular sport by a significant degree. The Brits are certainly shining in swimming-related sports at an international level, with athletes taking home medals in everything from swimming to water polo, diving, and synchronised swimming. Some of the many benefits of swimming include improved strength and flexibility, increased heart strength, improved circulation, better muscular balance and flexibility, and greater endurance.

Highland Games, Scottish Athletics, Sports in England

Photo Credit: Ian Robertson on Flickr

2. Athletics

Over 2.3 million people are involved in athletic events in England – almost a million more than 10 years ago. It makes sense that this sport is so high up on the list, since it comprises a plethora of events that includes running race walking, jumping, acrobatic athletics and throwing, to name just a few. Athletes reap a host of benefits, including cardiovascular, muscular and mental benefits. Athletics are an ideal way to battle stress, which is related to two of the most common mental conditions plaguing people in the UK: anxiety, and depression.

Cycling in Britain, Sports in England

Photo Credit: Nick Page on Flickr

3. Cycling

Some 2 million people in England call cycling their sport, and indeed, the UK is home to some of the most visited cycling routes in Europe, considered as safe as they are scenic. One of the reasons for the burgeoning popularity of this Olympic sport is its low cost – just about anyone can afford to purchase a bike, and savings on transport are also considerable when riders use their bike to get to work or school. Of course, cycling is also an excellent way to burn excess calories, strengthen muscles and improve circulation.

British Football, Sports in England

Photo Credit: Ronnie Macdonald on Flickr

4. Football

Celebrity footballers like David Beckham have done plenty to consolidate football as one of the most well-loved sports in England. Some 1.8 million play this game at least once a week, improving their fitness levels, strength, endurance, and general health. Football is a long game and players have to be at peak condition to last until the final whistle; they need to be prepared to change from slow running to sprints in a flash. Teamwork is also an important skill in this game; players are required to respect their teammates and work together to score a coveted goal. As an international sport, football provides players with the chance to battle it out against players from other countries. The good news for English footballers is that the football bug is biting hard in the United States too, with a record number of Americans showing an interest in international events such as the World Cup.

Royal and Ancient: St. Andrews Golf, Sports in England

Photo Credit: Son of Groucho on Flickr

5. Golf

A little under 1 million people play golf in the UK, and most are aged between 35 and 50 years. Winnie the Pooh author, AA Milne, once said that golf was so popular “simply because it is the best game in the world at which to be bad,” yet there are many more reasons why players flock to England’s top greens, including the chance to socialise, be out in nature and burn calories through walking. We wonder how long golf will remain on England’s Top Sports lists, since the industry is apparently going through a crisis. Time, cost and accessibility are just a few barriers to be overcome and England Golf is rising to the challenge, having launched a strategic plan for the 2014-2017 period. The plan includes stabilising club memberships and changing the game’s image (à la Happy Gilmore, perhaps?).

In addition to the Top Five, other sports are also proving popular among Brits, including tennis (Wimbledon is, after all, one of the most prestigious events on the tennis circuit), cricket (regarded as ‘the gentleman’s game’), rugby union and rugby league, and boxing.

Brit-Fact: If you ever wondered what the difference between rugby union and league is, the answer is: plenty. Rugby league football uses some styles and rules from rugby union, though it is an entirely different (yet equally exciting) game.

—Guest post submitted by Sally Blunt

Written by Abigail Young

I've had a passion for everything British my entire life, despite being raised as a small-town girl in the American Midwest, After years of dreaming, I got the chance to live and work in England for an entire year. Now I write about my favorite country, and hopefully inspire my fellow Britophiles to get over there and experience it for themselves.

This article has 7 comments

  1. D Reply

    You have titled this article “Top 5 Popular Sports in England”, but keep referring to ‘Brits’? You even have a picture of Scottish Highland Games?

    You do know that ‘British’ and ‘English’ are not the same, so why make this glaring mistake?

    • Abigail Young Reply

      Hi D! First of all, this is a guest post, so I let the author say what they wanted. Second, all English people are Brits, even if all Brits aren’t English 🙂

  2. Sandstorm Reply

    Americans say “soccer” instead of football right? If so why did you say football when your American?

  3. Sandstorm Reply

    Also I have read several of your articals and I think your veiw on the UK has been pretty distorted to fit what you dreamed about as a child. Many of your coments are not true for the avergae brit, scot, or welsh. However I do applaude your great love for our country, many who have been born here don’t have the same respect for British traditions as you. For example most of my friends and I think the royals are absolutely useless while you stare in awe of our monarchy. (sorry for spelling mistakes my autocorrect isn’t working sorry if I went a bit overboard😝)

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