Promoting Sports & Fitness
Participation and Industry Vitality

SFIA Products and Services

Fitness, Family, & Social Activities Drive Sports Participation

Date: 3/18/09

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 18, 2009 – While the American economy is suffering, many sports, fitness, and recreation activities are growing in popularity.  According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s Sports & Fitness Participation Report (2009 edition), a number of activities in the U.S. are on the upswing as participation is growing.

“The importance of daily physical activity is as important now as it has ever been,” said SGMA President Tom Cove.  “While millions of Americans are impacted by uncertainty in the workplace and the overall economy, their interest in playing sports, working out, and getting regular exercise remains strong.”

Despite the dip in the economy, sports and activities that had ‘statistically significant’ growth from 2007 to 2008 were either fitness or family/social activities that don’t cost much money to play.  Fitness activities which had ‘statistically significant’ growth in 2008 over 2007 were step aerobics (up 21.0%), high impact aerobics (up 8.7%), low impact aerobics (up 7.9%), elliptical motion trainers (up 7.2%), dumbbells (up 6.2%), and walking for fitness (up 2.7%).  Walking for fitness, by the way, is the most popular activity in the U.S. in with 111.7 million participants.

Family/social activities which had ‘statistically significant’ growth in 2008 over 2007 were ultimate frisbee (up 20.8%), backpacking (up 18.5%), surfing (18.2%), racquetball (up 18.1%), court volleyball (up 17.2%), trail running (up 15.2%), indoor soccer (11.8%), bicycling (10.2%), and tennis (up 9.6%).

Since 2000, a number of fitness activities, competitive sports, and recreational endeavors have shown ‘statistically significant’ growth – especially in the fitness category.

Sports and Fitness Activities with the Highest Growth Rates Since 2000
(age 6 and above; U.S. residents; source:  SGMA)

Rank/Sport 2008 Participation Growth Rate Since 2000
1. Pilates Training 8,886,000 471%
2. Elliptical Motion Trainer 25,284,000 243%
3. Lacrosse 1,127,000 117%
4. Stretching 36,288,000 47%
5. Tennis 18,558,000 43%
6. Spinning 6,693,000 42%
7. Table Tennis 17,201,000 35%
8. Paintball 4,857,000 34%
9. Treadmill 49,371,000 32%
10. Running/Jogging 41,130,000 31%

While six of those top ten growth activities are related to fitness (aerobic, conditioning, and strength), it’s not the only popular sports category as Americans remain very interested in all athletic and recreational endeavors.

Team Sports:  The top three most popular team sports are basketball (26.3 million), baseball (15.0 million), and outdoor soccer (14.2 million).

Racquet Sports:  Three activities have had ‘statistically significant’ growth in overall participation from 2007 to 2008 -- racquetball (up 18.1%), tennis (up 9.6%), and table tennis (up 7.8%).

Outdoor Sports:  The leading activities are freshwater fishing (40.3 million), bicycling (38.1 million), camping (33.7 million), and day hiking (32.5 million).

Water Sports: The top two growth activities in overall participation (2007 vs. 2008) are surfing (up 18.2% to 2.6 million participants) and snorkeling (up 10.8% to 10.3 million participants).

Individual Sports:  Since 2000, the top growth sport for overall participation is bowling (up 12.9% to 58.7 million).  The top three activities for overall participation are bowling, billiards/pool (49.0 million), and golf (27.6 million).

“While the news of this ever-present interest in all sports and exercise activities is encouraging, too many Americans still need to make exercise a daily priority.  Right now, too many Americans are inactive which is leading to an obesity problem in this country,” SGMA President/CEO Tom Cove.  “For those who may not be attracted to a gym-like environment, there’s exists a wide variety of choices when it comes to choosing a sport, athletic outlet, or recreational pursuit.” 

According to SGMA, the sports and activities with the highest levels of interest among ‘core’ participants in 2008 are fitness-related as fitness activities account for 11 out of the top 15 athletic pursuits.

Most Popular Sports and Fitness Activities Based on ‘Core’ Participation
(age 6 and above; U.S. residents; source: SGMA)

Rank/Sport 2008 Participation 'Core' Level of Frequency
1. Walking for Fitness 76,375,000 50+ Days/ Year
2. Treadmill 28,109,000 50+ Days/ Year
3. Stretching 27,619,000 50+ Days/ Year
4. Hand Weights 26,927,000 50+ Days/ Year
5. Weight/Resistance Machines 23,469,000 50+ Days/ Year
6. Running/Jogging 23,402,000 50+ Days/ Year
7. Dumbells 22,577,000 50+ Days/ Year
8. Freshwater Fishing 21,415,000 8+ Days/Year
9. Bicycling (Road/Paved Surface) 19,950,000 26+ Days/Year
10. Billiards/Pool 17,178,000 13+ Days/Year
11. Basketball 17,672,000 13+ Days/Year
12. Barbells 17,318,000 50+ Days/ Year
13. Home Gym Exercise  14,910,000 50+ Days/ Year
14. Elliptical Motion Trainer 13,556,000 50+ Days/ Year
15. Bowling 13,482,000 13+ Days/Year

While fitness is the industry’s leading overall participation category, many Americans initially get introduced to athletics through team sports.  

Leading Team Sports Based on ‘Core’ Participants
(age 6 and above; 2008 participants; U.S. residents; source: SGMA)

Rank/Sport Core Participants Total Participants % of Core Participants
1. Basketball 16,672,000 (13+ days) 26,254,000 63.5%
2. Baseball 10,166,000 (13+ days) 15,020,000 67.7%
3. Outdoor Soccer 6,481,000 (13+ days) 14,223,000 45.6%
4. Slow-Pitch Softball 5,906,000 (13+ days) 9,835,000 60.0%
5. Touch Football 4,294,000 (13+ days) 10,493,000 40.9%

This year’s SGMA Sports & Fitness Participation Report has overall participation figures for 118 sports in nine different categories (aerobic activities, conditioning activities, strength activities, individual sports, racquet sports, team sports, outdoor sports, winter sports, and water sports).  Copies of the SGMA Sports & Fitness Participation Report (2009 edition) are available from www.sgma.com.

This year’s study has been done as a joint effort of the USA Sports & Fitness Participation Study, a collaboration of sports associations that have been doing participation research separately for a number of years: Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, Tennis Industry Association, National Golf Foundation, IHRSA, Snowsports Industries America, and the Outdoor Industry Foundation.

During late January/early February of 2009, a total of 41,500 online interviews were carried out with a nationwide sample of individuals and households from the U.S. Online Panel operated by Synovate.  A total of 15,013 individual and 26,487 household surveys were completed.  The total panel has over one million members and is maintained to be representative of the U.S. population.  Over sampling of ethnic groups took place to boost response from typically under responding groups.  A weighting technique was used to balance the data to reflect the total U.S. population aged six and above.  The following variables were used:  gender, age, income, household size, region, and population density.  The total population figure used was 279,568,000 people aged six and above.

The online methodology allows for re-contacting specific groups of sports participants such as frequent runners or home gym users for follow-up consumer targeted research.  Individuals who have recently stopped playing or participating can also be targeted for follow-up interviews. This provides the opportunity for companies to develop deeper consumer research in areas including brand tracking, point-of-purchase influences, purchase frequencies and usage/attitude studies.

Companies will also have the ability to do PRIZM analysis, a lifestyle segmentation system consisting of 66 unique marketing segments intended to help marketers better understand and target their customers. The segments are derived through a statistical analysis of several factors, including age, income, presence of children and ‘urbanicity.’

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry.  SGMA helps lead the sports and fitness industries by fostering participation through research, thought leadership, product promotion, and public policy.  More information about SGMA membership, SGMA's Sports Research Partnership, and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.SGMA.com.

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