The results of the 2012 Physical Activity Council’s Participation Report are in, and while a drop in the overall number of active Americans is discouraging, there are some bright spots: Children ages 6-12 are more active than they were in 2010, hiking is on the rise and people are planning to spend more on fitness in 2012.
While the number of people who consider themselves active fell from 68.2 million in 2010 to 67.2 million in 2011, both specialty fitness and outdoor retailers could use elements of the 2012 PAC report to their benefit.
The annual study tracks sports, fitness and recreation participation in the United States, and each of the five organizations involved provides information on their area of expertise.
“I would look at the bright side,” said Christine Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation, one of the organizations that makes up the Physical Activity Council and supplies data for the report. “For the first time, we’re seeing young people begin to be more active and get off the couch and, as they say, start to enjoy the activities that help our health as well as our mental, physical and emotional health. That is a super-positive sign.”
But Neil Schwartz, director of business development at Sports Marketing Surveys, warned against discounting the decline in the numbers of active people.
“We were unhappy to see inactivity rates increasing in this country, and in fact increasing faster than the population growth itself,” Schwartz said. “We would hope with all of the publicity and everything else that it would have maybe leveled off a bit, but it hasn’t.”
Adults should take a cue from the 6-12 and 13-17-year-old crowds Fanning said, given that those age groups are making good choices by becoming more active.
Both demographics saw a slight decline in inactivity rates, and while it’s nothing huge (less than a percentage point), it’s still a step in the right direction, Fanning said. Plus, this group is desirable, with more than $200 billion in spending power.
Participation in outdoor sports, such camping and hiking, regained the two percentage points it lost between 2009 and 2010, representing the only increase in overall participation for the grouped participation categories.
“Overall we’re really pleased with outdoor recreation participation,” Fanning said, adding that the foundation’s Topline participation report would be released next Tuesdsay. “I think the study showed outdoor sports is the one area that’s a bright spot for activity across all types of recreation.”
While that might tickle outdoor retailers, fitness retailers can be happy that people surveyed are planning to spend more on fitness in 2012 than they did in 2011. While many indicated the spending would go toward club memberships, Schwartz said specialty fitness retailers could benefit as well.
The survey showed that yoga and boot camp-style training remain popular so any equipment related to those two activities might sell well.
It would behoove retailers to know about all the various activities their customers are involved in.
“I think it’s critical for retailers to understand what the cross-participation habits are of the folks shopping in their stores,” Schwartz said. “They can then tailor their sales efforts to not just a sport that people are primarily attached to, but all of the other activities that we participate in.”
Fanning agreed, saying outdoor enthusiasts often purchase products in the fitness world.
In addition to the crossover opportunity, there is a chance to sell to inactive people who indicated they’d like to participate in various activities — but haven’t done so because they’re unsure where to start.
For inactive people ages 13-44, some of those aspirational activities were working out out using machines and working out with weights. For those 6-12 and over 45, swimming was the top aspirational activity.