More Japanese people are joining sports clubs or community sports groups as they get older, with over 40 percent of women in their 70s belonging to such clubs, an annual survey by the government showed Sunday.

The survey for fiscal 2012 ended in March this year also showed that physical abilities of children have continued to improve since comparable data became available in fiscal 1998.

Women aged 70 to 74 had the highest percentage of people belonging to sports clubs or community groups for sports and fitness activities at 44 percent. The ratio is still above 40 percent for women 75 to 79 years of age, said the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

The percentage of people joining sports clubs is around 20 percent for women in their 20s and 30s, but it steadily goes up once they reach their 40s, according to the survey.

As for men, the percentage of sports club members is 25 percent among those 35 to 39 years of age and gradually goes up along with age, topping 40 percent among those 75 to 79 years old, it showed.

Children in all age brackets scored much higher in a physical ability test than in fiscal 1998.

They showed little improvement in recent years in some fundamental movement skills such as ball throwing, however, possibly reflecting a trend of declining time spent by them in playing outdoors or engaging in physical exercises regularly, said the ministry, which surveyed about 66,000 people.