Team Sports and Fitness Dominate, but the Sports Landscape is Changing

*WASHINGTON, D.C. - *While more than 170 million Americans are active in a fitness, team sports, recreational, or outdoor endeavor, nearly 45 million are only casually active and more than 60 million Americans are not active at all - according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s Sports Participation in America (2009 edition) report.

“These demographics give the reader a more accurate profile of today’s sports and fitness participants,” said SGMA President Tom Cove. “At least half of the U.S. population is very physically active, but far too many Americans are categorized as casually active or totally inactive - and that’s where we find people who are overweight and obese. The 45 million Americans who are casually active represent potential health club members, possible candidates for buying some form of sports and fitness equipment, or somebody who could be more active. If those 45 million people can increase their commitment to getting fit, obesity levels would drop and there would be less of a drain on our health care system. That’s why SGMA remains vigilant in its support of more physical education in schools and legislation, such as the PHIT Bill, that impacts health care.”

Another noteworthy trend is the increase in ‘pick-up’ play in team sports. In recent years, SGMA has noticed that participation in team sports has been driven by organized/sanctioned play. However, in 2008, there were seven team sports where ‘casual/pick-up’ play exceeded organized/sanctioned play. Those sports were basketball, ice hockey, field hockey, touch football, lacrosse, grass volleyball, and beach volleyball. SGMA believes this is the result of athletes and their families feeling the pinch of the economy. Many people are choosing less expensive ways to play sports and stay active.

“Without a doubt, the economy has had a positive effect on casual play,” said Rich Luker, president of The Luker Company (, a veteran analyst of community trends in the U.S. “The big issue is ‘time freedom.’ Because of job uncertainty, many families have become reluctant to make a time and financial commitment to a sport. In a nutshell, people are seeking free alternatives in a down economy.”

In all, roughly 90 activities are featured in this annual report on athletic recreational, and exercise trends in the United States. 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 are new to the sport.

Listed below are some of the newsworthy items from this report: It’s Hip To Be Fit. Fitness activities which are on the rise include step aerobics, elliptical motion trainers, dumbbells, and walking for fitness. Family-Friendly Fun. Activities which are family oriented which are gaining in popularity include Ultimate Frisbee, backpacking, trail running, indoor soccer, bicycling, tennis, surfing, racquetball, and court volleyball. Trends in Team Sports. The team sports with double-digit participation gains in the last year are Ultimate Frisbee, court volleyball, rugby, and indoor soccer. Ladies Leading the Way. Females represent the majority of participants in gymnastics, fast-pitch softball, and court volleyball. Women Are Inspired to Perspire. Of the 28 fitness activities listed, women represent more than half of the participants in 17 of them. ‘Sandlot’ Specials. The three team sports which attract the highest percentage of ‘pick-up’ participants are beach volleyball, grass volleyball, and touch football. Formal Activities. The three team sports which attract the highest percentage of ‘organized’ participants are fast-pitch softball, track & field, and indoor soccer. Sweat Shop Sensation. The fitness machine with the highest number of participants is the treadmill with 49.4 million participants. Fitness Leader. Walking for fitness is the most popular fitness activity with 111.7 million participants of which 76.4 million are ‘core’ followers (those who participate 50+ days/year). Sports Participation in America — which contains current participation figures for high school and college sports in the United States — focuses on fitness activities; cycling; team sports; water sports; running; indoor sports and games; skating and scooter sports; racquet and paddle 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 Industries America.

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

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 Research, and SGMA’s National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at


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