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SGMA Study Identifies Active Segments of U.S. Population

Date: 7/20/10

Nearly 80% of Americans Participate in a Sport, Fitness, or Outdoor Activity
Students Getting PE Are Far More Likely To Stay Active As Adults

SILVER SPRING, MD – July 21, 2010 – While more than 50% of all Americans are considered ‘frequent’ sports participants,  12% are classified as ‘regular’ sports participants and 15% are active on a ‘casual’ basis.  Unfortunately, 23% of all Americans are not active at all -- according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s Sports Participation in America (2010 edition) report.  In all, 92 activities are featured in this annual report on athletic, recreational, and exercise trends in the United States.   

“From a national perspective, the 33.6 million Americans who are active on a ‘regular’ basis and the 41.9 million Americans who are active on a ‘casual’ basis are a strong potential market for additional sales of sporting goods,” said SGMA President/CEO Tom Cove.  “Combined, there are more than 75 million Americans who are involved in some type of athletic activity, recreational endeavor, team sport, or exercise program on a fairly regular basis.  And, potentially, those individuals could be exercising more, buying more sports products, and improving their overall level of physical fitness.”

Within Sports Participation in America, there’s a new section which examines the activities of school-age children and the effect of physical education classes on their tendency to stay active as adults.  The study concludes that a person is more than three times likely to stay active in team sports if that individual has PE in school.  Outdoor activities, running, cycling, water sports, winter sports, and racquet sports show similar increases in participation among those who take PE classes.

“The data and demographics in this report also give us a clear picture of which sports are on the rise and which activities are more appealing to various age groups in this country,” said Cove.  “If you are looking to reach Americans ages 25-44, this report will tell you that certain team sports are very appealing to them.  Also, for the first time, SGMA’s research reveals a strong connection between students taking PE and their chances of getting and staying involved in some type of athletic activity.  By increasing awareness of the importance of PE in schools, this country can make some real progress in its attempt to confront the obesity issue.”

For each sport listed in this study, there are a series of statistics that showcase total and ‘core’ participation; participation based on gender; the average age of the participant; the average annual household income of the participant; the average number of days of play per participant; and the percentage of participants that played that sport for the first time. 

This study – an expanded version of SGMA’s Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report released in March -- also reports on some other factors which are having a significant impact on the activity levels of all Americans.

‘Pick-up’ play in team sports continues to suffer.  In 2009, there were only five team sports where ‘casual/pick-up’ play exceeded organized/sanctioned play.  Those sports were basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, touch football, and beach volleyball.  One of the reasons why participation in most team sports is dominated by organized/sanctioned play is because more young athletes are specializing in one sport at an earlier age.

In the overview section of Sports Participation in America, the issue of single-sport specialization is addressed because it’s having a negative effect on today’s young athletes.  According to The American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, too many young athletes are focusing too early in their athletic lives on a single sport which is leading to injuries attributed to overuse.

Sports Participation in America also notes that makers of video games are now producing games which encourage the end users to be active, rather than inactive, while playing.  These new games are described to as “motion game experiences.”

Listed below are some of the newsworthy items from this report:

  • Senior Appeal.  Fitness activities which have the highest percentage of participants, at age 55 and above, are walking for fitness, tai chi, and water aerobics.
  • Sweaty and Sociable.  In 2009, there was a significant increase in participation for class-oriented activities such as high impact aerobics, low impact aerobics, and step aerobics.
  • Economic Indicator.  Of all the fitness activities in this study, the elliptical motion trainer has the highest percentage of participants whose annual household income exceeds $100,000.
  • Fitness ‘Rookies.’  Of all the fitness, conditioning, and strength-building activities, yoga, cardio kickboxing, and Pilates Training have the highest percentages of first-time participants.
  • Ladies Dominate.  Females represent the majority of participants in just four team sports -- gymnastics, fast-pitch softball, court volleyball, and cheerleading.
  • Favorite Team Sports for Girls.  The three team sports which attract the largest number of female participants are basketball (5.5 million), outdoor soccer (5.1 million), and court volleyball (4.2 million).
  • Kids’ Games.  The three team sports which have the largest percentage of children participating (aged 6-17) are cheerleading (69%), gymnastics (64%), and track & field (61%).
  • Team Sports Trend.  The five team sports which attract the largest percentage of participants, who are ages 25-44, are roller hockey (50%), beach volleyball (47%), ice hockey (44%), slow-pitch softball (43%), and rugby (42%).
  • Emerging Team Sports.  The three team sports which had the highest percentage of first-time participants in 2009 were rugby (31.6%), field hockey (28.2%), and lacrosse (24.8%).
  • The Gym’s #1 Attraction.  With 51.4 million participants, the treadmill continues to be the most popular fitness machine.
  • Court Sport Combinations.  Forty percent of racquetball players also play tennis and 32% of table tennis participants play tennis. 
  • Home Sweet Home.  Roughly 36% of all boxers say they participate in the activity at home, indicating their focus is on fitness and not competition.
  • Gone Fishin’.  Of the 40.9 million freshwater fishermen, 10% also participate in fly fishing.  And, 55% of the 12.3 million saltwater fishermen also go freshwater fishing.

Sports Participation in America contains special sections on participation for high school and college sports; a chart listing wholesale sales for team sports equipment; and a special report which analyzes the effects of physical education on sports participation behavior patterns.

Sports Participation in America -- which contains current participation figures for high school and college sports in the United States -- focuses on aerobic activities; conditioning activities; strength activities; cycling sports; team sports; school age activities; water sports; running sports; indoor sports and games; skating and scooter sports; racquet sports; fishing; hunting and shooting sports; triathlon sports; individual contact sports; and other sports such as adventure racing, horseback riding, RV camping, and snowmobiling.  Golf participation data is being distributed by the National Golf Foundation; tennis participation data is being distributed by the Tennis Industry Association and the USTA; figures on outdoor activities like camping, canoeing, kayaking, rafting, and climbing are being distributed by The Outdoor Industry Foundation; and figures on snow sports are being distributed by the SnowSports Industry Association.

For members of the editorial media, they are encouraged to reproduce and reprint any portion of the report, as long as SGMA is listed as a source.

This report is available free of charge to full and associate members of SGMA.  To order a copy of Sports Participation in America, access www.SGMA.com.

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 and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.SGMA.com.

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