SFIA: Physical Activity Rates Increase Again

Physical activity rates increased for the fifth consecutive year, with more Americans participating in at least one sport, fitness exercise or outdoor recreation activity in 2022 than in any of the five previous years. The 2023 SFIA Topline Participation Report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association tracks participation rates of Americans ages 6 and older across 124 different sports, fitness and outdoor activities, including a section dedicated to the impact of COVID-19 on participation rates.

For the fifth consecutive year, activity in the U.S. continued to increase. In 2022, 77.6% of all Americans, or 236.9 million people, participated in at least one activity during the 2022 calendar year. Based on trend analysis into and out of the pandemic disruption, the United States saw a 9.2% increase in total participation rates from 2017 and a 1.9% increase from 2021.

“This year’s report reinforces that Americans are prioritizing physical activity as they establish habits and routines in a post-pandemic environment,“ said Tom Cove, president and CEO, SFIA. “But, we will make a mistake if we take some good signals for granted. Looking forward, sports and fitness delivery systems must commit to providing accessible, reasonably priced, and high-quality experiences to keep athletes engaged.”

Pickleball continued its incredible rise in America and remains the fastest-growing sport. Participation nearly doubled in 2022, increasing by 85.7% year-over-year and by an astonishing 158.6% over three years. But pickleball is not the only racquet sport to see continued growth. For the first time since 2015, every racquet sport increased its total participation number compared to the previous year.

In terms of team sports, the overall participation rate approached, but did not exceed, the 2019 rate. Basketball, outdoor soccer, and flag football all posted three-year increases of over 4.5%, with basketball leading the way with a 13% increase since 2019. Notably, evidence that “CORE participation” cumulatively across all team sports (a frequency measure to capture those most active) continues to lag suggests that while athletes are playing, they may not be playing as much as they used to.

Lifestyle activities generally remained very popular. Golf and tennis have grown more than 20% since 2019, and yoga grew more than 10% in that same time period. Trail running and day hiking participation grew for the fifth straight year. However, facility-based fitness activities like elliptical, group stationary cycling and weight resistance machines, which suffered as clubs were shuttered during COVID, have struggled to return to pre-pandemic levels.