Minister for Sport Mims Davies has told local authorities to improve their online channels for people to book for fitness activities.
Her call has come as Sport England has given the Open Data Institute (ODI) £1.5 million to support the initiative.
Davies said it should be as easy for people to book their fitness activities online as to “order your favourite takeaway or hire a cab”.
She spoke out after a survey by Sport England found around one in five adults have been put off sport because it was too difficult to find or book digitally.
While two-thirds of respondents said they found it easy to order a takeaway online, only 34% said the same about booking sport or fitness activities with a local council.
Price, location, time, difficulty level and a description of the session were all among the pieces of information potential participants wanted to find.
The survey sparked alarm because Britain is one of the three fattest nations in Europe, with two thirds of adults being classed as overweight and a quarter being obese. Only Malta and Turkey are fatter.
Obesity is known to raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia, joint and back problems and cancer.
Meanwhile, a third of children are overweight and 10% are obese when they leave primary school.
The ODI has already helped 27 organisations – including Greenwich Leisure Limited, British Cycling and Our Parks – publish their data on fitness activities, resulting in more than 170,000 sessions per month being made available online.
Davies said: “It should be as easy to book a court, football pitch or exercise class as it is to order your favourite takeaway or hire a cab.
“Not being able to easily plan and book online potentially puts many people off doing more physical activity.”
Sport England quizzed almost 2,000 adults on whether they found it simple enough to complete certain actions on the internet.
“Our survey shows that at the moment there are too many barriers to entry,” the organisation’s chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said.
“So, this is about giving the public the choice to find sport and physical activity in a way that meets the expectations they have in all other aspects of their lives.”
Image by Mathias Dekempeneer CC BY 2.0 flickr