Top 10 Athletic Activities In The USA – What Sports Grew & Why? | Sports Destination Management

Top 10 Athletic Activities In The USA – What Sports Grew & Why?

Jul 18, 2014

Sports planners who want a crystal ball showing trends in the way American participate in sports might want to sit up and take note.

While there are little changes or surprises in the top ten sports and fitness activities in America for 2013, there are some interesting trends when you look at which activities grew the most.  The top ten activities are led by walking for fitness with 117 million participants followed by running/jogging at 54 million participants. The next four most popular activities -- treadmill exercise, bowling, free weights and bicycling -- show little change from what was reported in 2012 by the Physical Activity Council.

“For inactive or sedentary Americans, there are so many great activities for people to start on their road to being active, fit and healthy. There are countless options.  We just need to get more Americans active and increase their frequency of participating as well,” said Keith Storey, Vice President, Sports Marketing Surveys USA, the firm which conducted the survey for the Physical Activity Council.

The Largest Growth Activities Dominate Total Growth: When you look at the growth of top activities in the USA in 2013, there are some very interesting findings. Firstly, walking for fitness included more than 3.3 million new participants in 2013 followed by swimming for fitness at 3.1 million new participants. But, as you look at the top ten activities or sports that grew (walking, swimming for fitness, running and bicycling), they represented more than 63% of the growth (10.4 million new participants) of the total growth of the top ten and accounted for 50% of the combined growth of all of the top 20 sports and fitness activities.

The other interesting observation is that most of these activities can be done outside, don’t take too long to do, can be done at the convenience of the participant, and with minimal cost.

“With such a dominant percentage of our total growth, we have to look at why walking, swimming, running, and bicycling are so strong. It is obvious people like the freedom to do sports activities when they want and that most of the top ten activities are performed outdoors,” says Mike May, Communications Manager, PHIT America.  “While some of these participants may be doing these activities for competitive purposes, it seems more are mostly focused on fitness.”

New, Unique Sports Spotlight Activities with the Highest Growth Percentage: There are some new, trendy sports and athletic activities that are showing fabulous growth. Stand up paddling was the #1 growth activity in 2013, showing a 43% growth rate. Other unique sports or activities are showing great growth as well. Rugby is booming, as is MMA for competition and adventure racing. 

“The list of the top percentage growth sports is really interesting. The fact that different sports and athletic endeavors are increasing in popularity is a sign that Americans are willing to broaden their horizons and do different things to stay active and fit,” says May. “I am one of those rugby participants. I love the team competition and it is such a great workout. It is also interesting that eight of the top ten activities are, again, performed outdoors.”

“In today’s time-compressed world, it’s interesting to see that fitness activities continue to be the major attraction of the American public when it comes to exercise,” says Storey.  “And four out of the top five most popular activities are fitness-related and easily accessible, 24 hours a day, by anybody – male or female, young or old.”

PHIT America is encouraging all Americans to get active…or more active.  “We must fight to overcome the inactivity pandemic to improve the health of America. By doing this, we can also prevent and reduce health care costs,” states Jim Baugh, Founder, PHIT America.  “And, we have a way for everyone to do this. Go to and you will find ways to get active in more than 50 sports or activities in your area.”

Founded in January 2013, PHIT America is a non-profit educational, social media, and advocacy campaign focused on overcoming the inactivity pandemic and obesity crisis in America by creating a ‘Movement for a Fit & Healthy America.’ More than 140 companies, along with sports ambassadors and celebrities, are helping PHIT America to get more Americans more active, fit and healthy.  For more about PHIT America, visit

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