Poll: Canadians want to play sports again but it may take time to feel comfortable

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TORONTO — A poll suggests that while Canadians want to get back to organized sports and group physical activities post-pandemic, it may take time for some to feel comfortable doing so.

Still, a majority believes that it’s important for Canadians to play organized sports when distancing restrictions are lifted because of the impact they have on mental and physical health.

The Abacus Data poll showed some one in four Canadian adults (27 per cent) regularly took part in an organized sport or group physical activity before the pandemic. As one might expect, younger Canadians were much more likely to take part — with 43 per cent of those aged 18 to 29 and 32 per cent of those aged 30 to 44 saying they played an organized sport or took part in a group physical activity before the pandemic.

Forty-five per cent had children who played organized sports or group physical activities. Soccer, swimming, hockey, basketball, baseball or softball, football, and tennis were the most reported sports played by children in households.

Respondents reported some hesitation to return to organized sports, but most would feel comfortable doing so within a few months.

Among those who regularly played organized sports or took part in group physical activities, 42 per cent said they would be comfortable playing again within a few weeks of distancing restrictions being lifted while 20 per cent said they would return within a few months. Twenty-seven per cent said it would take them six months or more to feel comfortable.

Ninety per cent of respondents said organized sports and group physical activity will be important in helping society rebuild and recover from the pandemic with 38 per cent saying it would be very important and 52 per cent calling it important. Ten per cent said they did not think it would be important.

Among those who regularly played organized sports before the pandemic, 54 per cent believed it was very important.

Still, 37 per cent of respondents said people shouldn’t be allowed to play organized sports or take part in group physical activities — when distancing restrictions are lifted — until there is a vaccine.

The poll was commissioned by Abacus Data, whose managing director is Tim Powers, chair of Rugby Canada.

The online poll of 1,800 Canadian adults was conducted between May 14-18. Abacus says the margin of error is plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size.

Data was weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region.