An array of fitness activities lead the pack of activities in increases in participation in 2004, with the strongest growth in working out at clubs, the NSGA's most recent sports participation study reports.
"There has been a trend upward for the last five years in club growth. I'm sure it has a lot to do with different types of clubs being opened now, especially clubs that appeal to the baby boomers who are so much more health and fitness conscious," Tom Doyle, NSGA vice president of information and research, told SNEWSÂ®.
With an 8 percent growth in participation from last year, the annual NSGA survey found that 31.8 million Americans worked out at a club in 2004, ranking it ninth of 45 sports analyzed in the report. The data comes from the "Sports Participation -- Series I and II" reports, which will be available later this month.
Classic fitness activities included in the survey showed from 1 percent to 8 percent growth. Like it has for the past 10 years, exercise walking ranked No. 1 overall of all activities, and was up 3.8 percent to 84.7 million participants.
Following the fitness leader in growth, club workouts, came aerobic exercising, with an increase of 5.1 percent, with 29.5 million participants in 2004. Also showing increases were exercising with equipment (up 3.9 percent to 52.2 million) and running/jogging (up 3.2 percent to 24.7 million). Weightlifting showed the lowest growth, up only 1.4 percent to 26.2 million participants. Filing in for 33rd of 45 activities was tai chi/yoga, up 2.5 percent to 6.7 million.
"Although the fitness percentage increases may seem modest compared to other activities, fitness activities have such a large base that the increase of a few percentage points translates into millions of people," Doyle said.
Doyle speculated that club growth has increased because an improved economy is giving Americans more disposable income to play with.
"I think there is some relationship between the general economic mood which is probably more positive now than it was a couple years ago," he said. "People have money -- and clubs cost money -- and if you're feeling comfortable with your income and feel you deserve to treat yourself, you may decide to become a club member. Then you have these phenomenons, like Curves, which are getting a number of people doing a certain type of workout."
Doyle also said he anticipates the overall fitness trends are going to continue upward for probably another five years, then start to flatten out: "It's going to be a function of aging. The baby boomers are going to age to the point where they will not exercise as much. I don't think they'll stop exercising. I think it's just typical of aging that you cut back a little bit as you get older."
In the NSGA study, a participant is considered someone age 7 or older who takes part in the sport or activity more than once in a calendar year. For information on NSGA reports, visit www.nsga.org, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-815-5422, ext. 108.