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The SGMA Survey Says ‘Social Networking’ Has Significant Impact on Sports Participation

Date: 4/13/11

‘Generation Y’ Is Most Active Part of Population

SILVER SPRING, MD – April 15, 2011 – ‘Social networking’ is having a major impact on sports participation patterns in the U.S. – particularly for those aged 12 to 30 (‘Generation Y’).   According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s (SGMA) Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report (2011 edition), the approach of ‘Generation Y’ toward athletic activity and exercise is changing because of the influences of Twitter, Texting, Facebook, and YouTube.

The True Impact of ‘Generation Y’

In all areas of exercise, those who are ‘Generation Y’ (born between 1980 and 1999) outnumber both the ‘Baby Boomers’ (born between 1945 and 1964) and ‘Generation X’ (born between 1965 and 1979) in every area of sports participation – individual sports, racquet sports, team sports, outdoor sports, winter sports, water sports, and fitness sports.  The most popular category for ‘Generation Y’ is fitness sports where 51.3 million of them are engaged in some type of fitness-oriented pursuit.  Those in the ‘Generation Y’ segment of the population have the strongest ‘social’ mindset which is influencing what they do with their free time.  As a result of their strong ‘social’ attitudes, the ‘Generation Y’ portion of the population is strongly gravitating toward group exercise.   

“The ‘social’ mindset of ‘Generation Y’ is the reason why health club memberships are picking up and group-oriented exercise classes are gaining in popularity.  ‘Generation Y’ enjoys working out and exercising with friends, whereas ‘Generation X’ has been focused more on individual pursuits,” said SGMA President/CEO Tom Cove.  “For ‘Generation Y,’ it’s as much about the socialization as it is the perspiration.”

Since 2009, a few group exercise activities have experienced double-digit gains in overall participation.  This growth has been affected by the ‘Generation Y’ philosophy on exercise:

Group Exercise Activities Showcasing Increases in ‘Overall’ Participation Since 2009:
1.) Group Cycling – up 29.9%
2.) Cardio Tennis – up 27.7%
3.) High Impact Aerobics – up 19.6%

Team Sports News

In team sports, there is good news to report.  Many traditional endeavors such as outdoor soccer, indoor soccer, tackle football, baseball, basketball, cheerleading, and court volleyball have experienced small degrees of growth in ‘overall’ participation since 2009 – reversing a recent trend in the other direction.  The other good news on team sports is that ‘overall’ participation in some ‘niche’ team sports activities has showcased dramatic increases since 2009, such as rugby – up 50.7%, lacrosse – up 37.7%, field hockey – up 21.8%, and beach volleyball – up 12.3%.  After analyzing team sports participation patterns at the ‘core’ level, four team sports have had double-digit percentage increases in participation since 2009.  They are lacrosse (13+ times/year….up 33.1%), rugby (8+ times/year….. up 20.3%), ultimate frisbee (13+ times/year….up 19.2%), and beach volleyball (13+ times/year…..up 18.9%).

Endurance Activities

There are two other sports which have risen in popularity:  (1) triathlon and (2) adventure racing.  Since 2009, ‘overall’ participation in traditional triathlons is up 63.7%, up 39.5% in non-traditional triathlons, and up 23% in adventure racing.  Those who have made a commitment to triathlons and adventure racing are doing so for fitness, fun, and the thrill of the finish.

“It appears that this trend is tied to a basic desire to belong to a group and identify with a team or club,” said Steve Furniss, founder of TYR Sport, a manufacturer of products and accessories for swimming and endurance sports.  “The triathlon is unique in its ability to couple a person’s fitness routine with a strong sense of community and social interaction, particularly for those not inclined to traditional sports. Other appeal factors include the fact that it is an adult sport, it appeals to both genders, it offers training diversity (swimming, cycling and running) and has the cachet of being the latest ‘Everest’ fitness endeavor, much like accomplishing a marathon was for many in the 1970s and 1980s.  However, unlike a marathon, triathlons and adventure racing have so many formats that it can encompass a greater participant base.  At the end of the day, triathlons and adventure racing offer social interaction and a sense of community while providing the ability to stay fit.   That’s a powerful formula.”

America’s Top Ten Sports & Fitness Activities

The most popular sports and activities in the U.S. – as measured by people who participate at least once a year in any given activity, i.e. ‘overall’ participation – have a strong focus on fitness as seven out of the top ten activities are fitness-related:



 1 Walking for Fitness

 114.1 million

 2 Bowling  

 55.9 million

 3 Treadmill    

 53.1 million

 4 Running/Jogging  

  49.4 million

 5 Hand Weights  

  45.9 million

 6 Billiards/Pool    

  39.4 million

 7 Bicycling  

  39.3 million

 8 Freshwater Fishing

  38.9 million

 9 Weight/Resistance Machines     

  38.6 million

 10 Dumbells  

  37.4 million  


Finally, in a survey of non sports participants, they were asked which sports they would be most interested in participating…..and swimming and weight training were most frequently mentioned.

This year’s Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report has overall participation figures for 119 sports in 14 different categories (fitness activities, equipment exercise, team sports, racquet sports, outdoor activities, fishing, winter sports, personal contact sports, indoor sports, wheeled sports, hunting, shooting sports, water sports, and other sports/activities).  Copies of the Sports & Fitness Participation Topline Report (2011 edition) are available from www.sgma.com.

This year’s study has been done as a joint effort of The Physical Activity Council, 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, The Outdoor Foundation, and the United States Tennis Association.

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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