Statistics galore: Women dominate fitness, ’08 sales to be flat, participation mostly steady

Statistics released by two sports and fitness associations reveal that although sales are expected to be flat in 2008, participation in many fitness-related activities is still growing.
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Statistics released by two sports and fitness associations reveal that although sales are expected to be flat in 2008, participation in many fitness-related activities is still growing.

And one report noted women still lead the way when it comes to taking part in getting fit.

“Despite the fact the fitness category is on the rise, too many Americans are inactive which is leading to an obesity problem in the U.S.,” SGMA President/CEO Tom Cove said in a statement. “For those who may not be attracted to a gym-like environment, there’s a cornucopia of choices when it comes to selecting a sport, athletic outlet, or recreational pursuit.”

The National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA) also reported that all fitness and exercise activities, except what that group loosely defines as “aerobic exercising,” are on the rise. Since that category would include group exercise, NSGA Vice President Tom Doyle speculated that the drop may have come from the group including yoga for the first time. Yoga per NSGA has 10.7 million participants in 2007, less than those counted by SGMA or the Yoga Journal (See those results reported in a Feb. 25, 2008 SNEWS® story by clicking here.

That doesn’t mean though that growth in fitness activities found by the NSGA was huge -- weightlifting was only up 0.9 percent to 33.2 million participants (No. 13 on the list overall of 47 activities) while “exercising with equipment” (No. 13) was up 0.8 percent to 52.8 million participants. Interestingly, tennis led all sports activities in growth for 2007, hitting 18.7 percent growth. Cick here to a chart of results.

For the NSGA’s annual survey, The Sporting Goods Market, all participants seven and older who took part in an activity at least once a year are counted, while participants in some categories (including fitness related ones) must log the activity at least six times a year.

The SGMA in the 2008 edition of its annual Sports & Fitness Participation Report also shows strong fitness participation, although it breaks down the activities into 112 categories instead of the NSGA’s 47. Treadmill use is No. 2 overall of all activities with 29 million users of the “core” level, meaning 50 or more days a year. Although overall since 2000 all fitness activities have gained huge numbers of participants, the SGMA shows declines in many, including in all weight and strength categories, from 2006 to 2007.

When it comes to sales for the 2008 year, the NSGA doesn’t necessarily paint a rosy picture, despite record gains in 2007. All sales, which include equipment, hit a record $53.5 billion in 2007 but NSGA reported it expected flat sales this year, likely to hit $53.4 billion. In 2007, all equipment, which accounted for $25.3 billion in sales and includes fitness among other categories, showed a 3.1 percent gain.

Exercise equipment as its own category remains the largest individual equipment category surveyed by the NSGA. Sales of equipment increased 5 percent to $5.5 billion last year, and treadmills continue to dominate, with $3 billion in sales, showing an increase of 2 percent. Ellipticals racked up $462.1 million in sales, significantly lower than the total for treadmills but representing higher growth year-over-year at 27 percent.

Not surprisingly, the NSGA also reported, as it did last year in a separate look at the results, that women continue to dominate most fitness activities except weight-lifting. After yoga (with an 85 percent rate), females represented 50 percent or more of participants in aerobic exercising, exercise walking, working out at a club, and exercising with equipment, where they represent 71 percent, 63 percent, 55 percent and 51 percent of participants, respectively.

“The addition of yoga to the survey this year and the female dominance in that and other fitness activities,” Doyle said in a statement, “suggests that women are far more serious about fitness than their male counterparts.”

Complimentary copies of the SGMA’s Sports & Fitness Participation Report (2008 edition) are available by clicking here.

The NSGA’s report, The Sporting Goods Market in 2007,” is available for a fee to retail members and free to manufacturer members of the association. To find that or additional research, go to To download a free PDF of women’s participation figures, click here.


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