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

Feature Story

February 2022

Americans' Inactivity Rate Declining, Says SFIA Report

Americans got a move on in 2021, says the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). As the world slowly began to reopen last year, Americans got back on the move, according to the association's Topline Participation Report, which tracks participation rates of Americans 6 and older, across 120 different sport, fitness and outdoor activities. The report includes a section dedicated to the impact of COVID-19 on participation rates.

For the second year in a row, inactivity levels declined. Decreasing by 0.7% from 2020, inactivity is the lowest it has ever been. Compared to 2016, activity has increased 7.8%—that means 16.8 million more people participated in sports and fitness in a five-year span.

Lower inactivity levels in 2021 were primarily driven by the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups, with youth inactivity—age groups 6 to 12 and 13 to 17—also decreasing for the fifth year in a row. While these activity numbers are encouraging, there is still a lot of work to do, as more than 72 million people are still inactive.

"2021 showed pandemic-friendly activities like tennis, golf, running, hiking, yoga, skateboarding and surfing continue to be popular, while other categories that declined in 2020 are starting to recover," said Tom Cove, president and CEO, SFIA.

Across the seven sports categories tracked by SFIA, water sports saw the largest year-over-year increase in participation at 2.3%, followed closely behind by outdoor sports with a 2.2% increase. Team sports saw a year-over-year increase of 1.8%, but participation still remains lower than pre-pandemic levels with approximately 2 million fewer people participating in team sports in 2021 than 2019.

Pickleball continues its incredible rise, becoming the fastest-growing sport over the past two years, with participation seeing a 39.3% growth. Yoga has grown 12.8% in that same time frame, making it one of the fastest-growing activities during the pandemic.

Major events continue to have a substantial impact on participation. With the summer Olympic games taking place in 2021, participation in gymnastics, fast-pitch softball, swimming on a team, and court volleyball all increased by more than 8%. This is almost double the amount of growth the next highest team sport saw.

"As we continue to face challenges with an ongoing, unpredictable pandemic, we are encouraged to see folks retuning to health clubs and heading back out to the courts and fields, and continuing the active lifestyles they adopted during the pandemic," Cove said

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