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Top 25 Most Popular Sports/Recreational Activities in the U.S.

August 14th, 2006 by Geoff Thomsen

Here are some interesting facts about sports participation which were originally posted in a in-line skating forum (thanks Manny!). I went to the source of the numbers, www.sgma.com, but the site requires an account to see any of the detailed reports. It would be interesting to see just how racquetball is trending. Racquetball didn’t make it into the top 25 with only 4.9 million participants (#25 was Outdoor Soccer at 15.9 million). Bowling was number 1, at 53.5 million participants.

SPORTS IN AMERICA: THE BIG PICTURE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 2, 2006 — Whether it’s for fitness or just for fun in the outdoor sun, millions of Americans are spending their free time engaged in some type of sport, fitness activity, or athletic/recreational endeavor. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), bowling is the number one sports activity in the U.S. — though four out of the top ten activities are fitness pursuits and another four are directly related to the ‘Great Outdoors.’

The ‘big picture’ details on sports participation patterns in the United States can be found in SGMA’s Sports Participation Topline Report (2006 edition). This report contains participation data for more than 100 sports which are divided into one of 13 different categories – equipment exercise; fishing; fitness activities; indoor sports; outdoor activities; personal contact sports; racquet sports; shooting sports; team sports; water sports; wheel sports; winter sports; and other sports/activities.

In this study, there are annual participation figures for 1987 (benchmark year); 1990; 1993; 1998; 2000; 2004; and 2005. It also lists percentage changes for 2004 vs. 2005; 1998 vs. 2005; and 1987 vs. 2005.

From a growth perspective, the ten activities with the most statistically-significant percentage increases in participation from 2004 to 2005 were lacrosse (+77.5%), fly fishing (+41.6%), surfing (+37.3%), ice hockey (+29.4%), mountain biking (+21.2%), yoga/tai chi (+18.1%), artificial wall climbing (+15.8%), indoor soccer (+15.5%), jet skiing (+14.5%), and kayaking (+13.3%).

TOP 25 MOST POPULAR SPORTS/RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES IN THE U.S.
(For calendar year 2005; 6 years of age or older; participated at least once per year)

Sport/Activity

Bowling – 53.5 million
Treadmill Exercise – 48.0 million
Stretching – 42.3 million
Freshwater Fishing – 42.1 million
Tent Camping – 38.6 million
Horseback Riding – 38.0 million
Running/Jogging – 37.8 million
Overnight Hiking – 36.6 million
Fitness Walking – 36.3 million
Billiards/Pool – 35.2 million
Basketball – 32.0 million
Hand Weights – 31.4 million
Weight/Resistance Machines – 29.0 million
Dumbells – 28.4 million
Golf – 25.7 million
Calisthenics – 24.9 million
Barbells – 23.0 million
Darts – 18.8 million
Tennis – 18.3 million
RV Camping – 18.2 million
Hunting (Shotgun/Rifle) – 18.0 million
Elliptical Motion Trainer – 16.7 million
Abdominal Machine/ Exercise – 16.5 million
Inline Skating – 16.5 million
Outdoor Soccer – 15.8 million
Other prominent sports located outside the top 25 sports/activities are: fitness swimming (14.6 million), ice skating (14.6 million), touch football (14.1 million), table tennis (14.1 million), slow-pitch softball (12.9 million), skateboarding (11.4 million), paintball (10.4 million), Pilates Training (10.4 million), baseball (10.3 million), water skiing (7.3 million), tackle football (5.8 million), racquetball (4.9 million), fast-pitch softball (3.5 million), and surfing (2.7 million).

Sgma: http://sgma.com/

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2 Comments.

  • 1. Jeff | August 14th, 2006 at 11:46 am

    For those who can’t understand why Paintball is on ESPN, but racquetball isn’t:

    Racquetball – Participants in 1998: 5,853,000 / Participants in 2005: 4,909,000 / A 16 percent decline

    Paintball – Participants in 1998: 5,923,000 / Participants in 2005: 10,357,000 / A 75 percent increase

  • 2. scott | May 21st, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Good info – thanks!

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