A Record Number of Americans Participated in Sports, Fitness Activities in 2023 | Sports Destination Management

A Record Number of Americans Participated in Sports, Fitness Activities in 2023

Mar 16, 2024 | By: Michael Popke

A total of 242 million people in the United States — nearly 80% of all Americans 6 years and older — participated in at least one sports or fitness activity in 2023. That’s a 2.2% increase from 2022, making it the highest number of people that have ever participated in an activity in one year. What’s more, the number of Americans who participated in an activity has increased every single year for 10 years, growing by 5 million in 2023.

All of this good news comes from the recently published “2024 Sports, Fitness, and Leisure Activities Topline Participation Report,” issued annually by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).

All seven major sport and fitness physical activity categories showed increased year-over-year rates of participation, according to the report, which SFIA says is considered the sports and fitness industry’s essential reference for participation, as it tracks Americans 6 and up across 124 different sports, fitness and outdoor activities.

“These participation numbers are positive for the country and for our industry,” Tom Cove, SFIA president & CEO, said in a statement. “Frankly, they are not a surprise, as we know Americans are valuing and pursuing active lifestyles post-pandemic. Our industry’s role now is to fulfill that interest with positive sports and fitness experiences and quality, innovative and inspiring products.”

Participation in winter sports, team sports, racquet sports and water sports all grew by more 9% last year. Winter sports, fueled by favorable weather conditions, led with 22% growth over 2022, and team sports weighed in with 10.8% growth. Notably, 20 of the 24 sports tracked in the team sports category showed increases (compared to only five the previous year). Swimming on a team lead the way with a 14.8% year-over-year increase, followed by court volleyball with a 13.4% year-over-year increase.

This reflects an increasing trend in the United States of strong demand for team sports opportunities, according to the SFIA, following dissolution of teams during the pandemic in 2020. The number of team sports participants now exceeds pre-COVID levels from 2019.

Also noteworthy is that, for the third year in a row, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America. Participation jumped 51.8% from 2022 to 2023 — and a whopping 223.5% in three years. The number of pickleball participants stands at 13.6 million, approaching the number of outdoor soccer players (14.1 million). Pickleball contributed to the overall healthy participation trends seen in racquet sports, which reflect continued robust participation numbers in tennis, too.

Trend analysis from the SFIA report also highlights the fitness category, where many health club-based activities such as using a treadmill, stair-climber and rowing machine — plus group activities like barre, Pilates and yoga — saw participation gains in 2023.

SFIA report shows more people active than everOther highlights of the report:

  • Golf (on- or off-course) continues its upward swing, with a 3.9% participation increase between 2022 and 2023. This was driven, according to the SFIA, by a nearly 20% increase in off-course golf; on-course golf participation grew by 9.6%. (Off-course golf is defined as activity at a driving range or golf entertainment venue, or using an indoor simulator.)
  • Participation in both trail running and day hiking keeps climbing, with year-over-year increases of 12.3% and 3.1%, respectively
  • Every winter sport increased its total participation numbers in 2023 compared to 2022.

It’s also worth noting that inactivity decreased to its lowest number since the SFIA began tracking the metric: Just 21.2%, or 64.9 million people, reported doing none of the 124 activities at least once. The report links inactivity to income and suggests that increased rates of inactivity correlate to decreased family income levels — “an area that calls out for greater attention,” according to the association.

The 44-page 2024 Topline Participation Report is free to SFIA members and is available for purchase for $350 to non-members.

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