How Active Are Americans?

Data from the National Sporting Goods Association indicates nearly four-fifths of all Americans participated in a sport, fitness or recreational activity last year.

MOUNT PROSPECT, IL – Americans are more active than one might think, according to data in the “Sports Participation: Series I” report, published annually by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA). Among Americans age seven and older, 78.7% (212.7 million Americans) participated more than once in the 23 sports and recreational activities included in the Series I report.

Sports included in the Series I report include team sports, fitness activities, outdoor recreation activities (except shooting sports and boating activities) and traditional individual sports.

Among the 56.9 million who “did not participate” in 2008, 60% were female; 40%, male.

“The fact that nearly four out of five Americans participates in some sort of sport, recreation or fitness activity indicates a solid base of fitness in America,” NSGA Vice President of Information & Research Thomas B. Doyle said. “However, that percentage has not changed appreciably for more than a decade. It is important for that number to increase, especially in the face of obesity trending upward across the nation.”

By age, 55-64-year-olds represented the highest percentage of non-participants, 17%, while representing 12% of the U.S. population. The 45-54-year-olds, 16% of the US population, represented 15% of non-participants.

America's youth had the lowest percentage of non-participants. Children age 7-to-11 represented 4.5% of non-participants; teenagers 12-to-17 years old, 7%.

Household income clearly has an impact on participation. Households with incomes of less than $15,000, representing 10% of the US population, had a non-participation rate of 16%. At the other end of the economic spectrum, households with incomes of more than $100,000 (22% of the US population) had a non-participation rate of only 13%.

Regionality seems not a significant factor in non-participation, at least in the 23 sports included in the Series I report. Non-participation rates are close to the percentage of population in each of the nine U.S. census regions.

The NSGA Sports Participation surveys have included a check off box for “Did Not Participate” the past three years.

For the surveys, a participant is someone age seven or older who takes part in the sport or activity more than once in a calendar year. Participation rates for all the sports surveyed may be viewed on the NSGA website (

These reports have been published by NSGA for more than 25 years. They provide data on total 2008 participation, frequency of participation, and mean (average) and median (mid-point) number of participation days. Single-time participation, which is not counted in the total, is included separately.

Demographic data on participants includes gender, age, mean and median age by gender, gender by age, household income, and education of male and female head of household. Geographic analysis includes nine census regions and metro area size. Presence of children is also noted.

For more information on pricing for these and other NSGA research reports, please contact the NSGA Research Department, (847) 296-6742, ext. 108, or e-mail: Information is also available on the NSGA web site,

About NSGA:
NSGA, which has served the sporting goods industry since 1929, organizes and hosts the annual NSGA Management Conference & Team Dealer Summit, the sporting goods industry's premier educational and networking event (Next: May 2-5, 2010, at the Saddlebrook Resort/Tampa in Wesley Chapel, Fla.). NSGA publishes award-winning market research and serves as the voice of retailers and team dealers in the industry.

For more information on NSGA member services, visit the Association home page (; call Sue Wenderski at NSGA, (847) 296-6742, Ext. 102; e-mail:; or fax (847) 391-9827.