Despite the rise in obesity and the national scare about its cost to society, other recent statistics show that the number of so-called "frequent exercisers" is up 7 percent.
Why is that figure key for the fitness, recreation and sporting goods industries? Because those enthusiasts are the ones to drive the activity and account for most of the sales related to it, stated the just-released annual report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) titled "Tracking the Fitness Movement."
Those frequent exercisers aren't double-counted, either: If someone does one activity like lifts weights 150 times a year but also takes group exercise classes 150 times a year, that's still only one exerciser. What that means to the manufacturers is that the 54.9 million people counted as frequent for 2003 -- the most recent year available and the latest figures in this 2004 report -- may be purchasing products in several categories. The number is up from 2002's 50.9 million.
Of frequent participants (which means someone does the activity at least 100 times a year or about twice a week), 28.5 million or 52 percent are woman and 26.4 million are men. Notable is that the percent of women has always been slightly higher but since 1990 has been declining slightly, down 2.5 percent from 1990's 54.5 percent.
Despite touting a leap in numbers, the SGMA figures, which are from research done for it by American Sports Data, also show the number of frequent exercisers has not kept up with the population growth since 1990. In 1990, frequent exercisers accounted for 51.5 million, meaning the growth in 13 years has been 6.6 percent while population nationally has gone up about 18 percent since then.
>> Home equipment sales grow, but slowly -- In 1990, sales accounted for just under $1 billion wholesale. By 2000, that was nearly $3 billion, but then sales started to slow to $3.01 billion in 2001, $3.07 billion in 2002, and $3.09 billion in 2003. The report says the future is bright, though, since aging Baby Boomers now age 40 to 58 are key buyers.
>> Exercise at home is still important -- In 2003, about a third of exercisers said they worked out at home, while about a quarter of them said they went to a club. On average, those who used treadmills or stationary bikes worked out more at clubs than those who used dumbbells, while those who used treadmills worked out more at home than those who used stationary bikes. A different study by SGMA in 1997 found that a third of home equipment owners actually used it (SNEWSÂ® View: Wonder if that's self-reported because won't most say they do?), while 18 percent said they didn't.
>> Softer and lower-impact movements gaining followers -- Pilates grew by 459 percent since 2003, while elliptical use grew by 116 percent and yoga/tai chi participation was up 81 percent. But note this is for anyone who said they did something at least once or even only once in the year.
>> Interest in strength-training up too -- From free weight use to other forms of strength training, the report shows significant growth in using muscles against resistance. In free weights, numbers for woman are up to 6.8 million from 1.8 million in 1990 (more than triple) and, for men, up to 11.3 million from 5.8 million in 1990 (nearly double). Still, free weight participation is only 7 percent of the population, so there is lots of room to grow even more.
>> Favorites? -- Favorite activities by percentage of participants are, in order, exercise to music, water exercise, fitness walking, high-impact aerobics, fitness bicycling, cardio kickboxing, fitness swimming, yoga/tai chi, running/jogging and Pilates. When going by number of participants, fitness walking still leads, as it has for years, with running/jogging next, then treadmill exercise. Next up are: exercise to music, stretching, barbells, fitness bicycling, fitness swimming, resistance machines, and yoga/tai chi.
Other statistics are available in the report on various segments, including breakdowns on trends and participation numbers in 23 categories. For more information about the report, click here. A PDF download of the 19-page report is available at no cost to members.