Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

March 2020

3 Million More Americans Got Active in 2019, Says SFIA

By Dave Ramont

Each year, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) releases the Topline Participation Report, which features data from the largest single source sports, fitness and leisure activity participation study in the country. The report tracks participation in 120 sports, recreation and fitness activities.

The recently released study revealed that in 2019, 3 million more Americans took part in some sport or fitness activity, after years of stagnant activity rates. According to the report, outdoor activities, fitness and team sports categories showed the largest growth percentages.

"The uptick in number of people being active is good news and reflects a lot of hard work done in recent years to get more Americans active and healthy," said Tom Cove, SFIA president and CEO. "But make no mistake. The work is only beginning, and now is the time to double down to sustain this direction."

When it comes to those individuals who are physically active, the report highlighted some concerning disparities. For example, households in lower income brackets—less than $50,000—are significantly more inactive than those in higher income brackets—more than $50,000.

"As a nation we have a special responsibility to ensure that access to sport and fitness is open to all, without regard to one's income," said Cove. "It's a moral imperative, and it's also a sure-fire way to reduce long-term healthcare costs. This is why it is so important that we pass the PHIT Act (Personal Health Investment Act) immediately."

The study showed that last year, nearly every fitness category increased in participation. The greatest year-over-year growth was represented by dance, step and other choreographed exercise to music (7%); aquatic exercise (6.4%); rowing machine (5.9%); and treadmill (5.7%). New studios and gyms, apps and social media are helping to reduce barriers to newcomers, giving them options to try new things and diversify their workouts.

Yoga, which enjoys a consistently large base, showed a 6% year-over-year growth, posting more participants than high-impact intensity training (HIIT), boot camp-style training and barre combined. Additionally, all combat sports reported significant growth in 2019, including boxing for fitness and competition, MMA (mixed martial arts) for fitness and competition, cardio kickboxing, wrestling and martial arts.

As a whole, the team sports category increased in participation, even though 16 out of 23 team sports reported a decline. Select traditional team sports are credited with the increases, including outdoor soccer (4.5%), flag football (3.2%), basketball (2.9%) and volleyball (2.7%).

SFIA is a global trade association of manufacturers, retailers and marketers in the sports products and fitness industry. For more information, visit

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