Participation in activities for fitness -- indoors or out -- has grown more than any other sport, according to a recent report by Leisure Trends, a research organization that specializes in sports and fitness. And women still lead the way, while yoga has seen the greatest growth curve.
Reporting in its most recent LeisureTrak report, the group found fitness activities were on a run between the summer of 2000 and 2004, with 75 percent of active Americans reporting they had participated in "fitness sports" in the summer of 2004 compared to 63 percent making that statement for the summer of 2000.
Indoor fitness activities increased by 23 percent, going from 30 percent who said they took part in 2000 to 37 percent in 2004, while outdoor fitness activities showed a slightly greater increase of 25 percent, or growing from 47 percent in 2000 to 59 percent in 2004, according to the report, "The Evolving Summer Marketplace."
"Exercise has become a huge part of life," Julia Day, Leisure Trends' sales director, told SNEWSÂ®. "There is a huge movement to get fit and address (health) issues. A lot of it is driven by individual rather than team sports, and by Baby Boomers. We know fitness is important to them. They are a huge segment of the population, and they don't want to get old. They realize that diet and fitness are the magic bullets to not getting old. That's a huge contributor, and that's going to continue."
Suffering declines to the rise in fitness are team sports -- Americans are moving away from group sports to individual sports, the report said. Fewer Baby Boomers are playing on teams, and the smaller Gen X population (now nearly 30 years old and up to 40 years old) isn't having much impact, the report found. Millenniums, also known as Gen Y (now about 10 years old to just over 25 years old), are showing more enthusiasm for gaming, music and eating and have less interest in team play after they've outgrown Little League and Pop Warner football.
A kinder, gentler fitness
Over the four-year period tracked by Leisure Trends, yoga showed the greatest growth, up an astounding 122 percent, and broke into the top 20 sports list for the first time claiming No. 20 (Is yoga a sport?). Following yoga was the use of a health club or spa, which is up 92 percent and broke the top 10 list for the first time (coming in at No. 9).
Also on the growth path were: exercising, up 67 percent; walking, up 58 percent; bicycling, up 31 percent; and swimming, up 29 percent. Of the top 20 sport activities in the summer of 2004, seven of the top 10 were fitness activities. Among them, walking was No. 1, exercising was No. 2 and bodybuilding/weightlifting was No. 8.
Researchers considered the most noteworthy happenings to be the introduction of the Curves gyms and the popularity of yoga, and the multitude of choices now available.
"Now you have so many different fitness options: Curves, yoga, Pilates, etc. There's so much more to choose from," Day said.
Factoring in gender and age
When walking is included in the equation, older women are the most active in fitness activities. The reason, researchers say: Walking is a simple and accessible exercise. While 76 percent of sports-participating Americans engage in a fitness activity, 81 percent of those 45 or older choose fitness activities, including 87 percent of women sports participants 45 and older.
In contrast among men, only 66 percent of men choose fitness activities. When walking is not a factor, individuals 25 to 44 are more likely to participate (69 percent) in fitness activities, compared with only 58 percent of Americans 45 and older. No matter how you slice it, though, women are still the biggest fitness participants -- 66 percent versus 55 percent.
Leisure Trends' Day predicts a bright future for fitness activities. "It's going to continue to grow because of the way all the trends are. You have aging Baby Boomers, you have a fitness movement in the United States and a decline in team sports. With factors like health and appearance, I really think fitness is going to continue to grow."
The LeisureTrak Report (www.leisuretrends.com) researches Americans at play and is based on a quarterly poll of 1,000 American adults ages 16 and older. The results are projectable to the U.S. population.