SFIA study finds fitness remains popular, but time and money factors in inactivity

New report also examines why inactive people don’t work out
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Fitness remains the most popular category of activity among the 126 tracked by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.


In the most recent Tracking the Fitness Movement Report, fitness activities like walking for fitness, running/jogging and treadmill participation remained the most favored. The study also found that fitness equipment sales — both residential and vertical — were up from 2011, but so are inactivity levels.

SFIA Spokesperson VJ Mayor said people are feeling more optimistic about the economy so they’re more confident to purchase equipment.

“To see [overall equipment] sales go up 4.7 percent is a good thing,” Mayor said.

The top 10 preferred activities among respondents were walking for fitness, running/jogging, using the treadmill, bowling, hand weights, bicycling, weight machines, dumbbells, stretching and hiking.

Participation in strength training alone is down from 2011, but SFIA officials said that’s most likely due to the rise in activities like CrossFit that incorporate both strength and cardio.

Other bright spots include an increase in yoga participation, up 5.2 percent from 2011; swimming for fitness, up 7.9 percent; and day hiking, up 3.1 percent.

Fitness equipment sales were up in 2012 — 3.5 percent for home-use equipment and 8.5 percent for commercial.

In terms of home equipment, sales of free weights and stair climbing machines were up 6.8 percent and 6 percent respectively, making up for the 2.5 and 2.0 percent drops in exercise cycles and home gyms respectively.

Despite all these bright spots, inactivity is still a concern.

The rising number of people who report not participating in any activity whatsoever has grown to 80.5 million people, which is 28 percent of the U.S. population.

“By 2018 that number is going to be close to 92 million,” Mayor said. “That would cost our industry $28 billion in potential lost revenue.”

The two things holding Americans back from being active are time and money. The lower-income survey participants indicated they’d like to explore working out using machines, fitness classes, swimming for fitness, working out with weights and bicycling, but said said they couldn’t afford it. The inactives who made more than $100,000 a year said they didn’t have time to workout.

Though that news may sound glum, there is some happy sunlight in the immediate future.

SFIA President and CEO Tom Cove said in a September news release that inactivity would cost the sports and fitness industry $28 billion by 2018 if inactivity continues. Plus it will add to the strain on our already expensive healthcare system.

“It is worth noting that the Farmers’ Almanac is calling for a cold, nasty winter across the U.S. in 2013-2014, which may drive early 2013 fitness participation and equipment sales,” Tom Cove, SFIA president and CEO wrote in the report.

So saddle up for the winter selling season because it looks like it will be a busy one.