Sports in America: The Big Picture

Whether it’s for fitness or just for fun in the outdoor sun, millions of Americans are spending their free time engaged in some type of sport, fitness activity, or athletic/recreational endeavor.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – June 1, 2006 -- Whether it's for fitness or just for fun in the outdoor sun, millions of Americans are spending their free time engaged in some type of sport, fitness activity, or athletic/recreational endeavor. According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), bowling is the number one sports activity in the U.S. -- though four out of the top ten activities are fitness pursuits and another four are directly related to the ‘Great Outdoors.'

The ‘big picture' details on sports participation patterns in the United States can be found in SGMA's Sports Participation Topline Report (2006 edition). This report contains participation data for more than 100 sports which are divided into one of 13 different categories – equipment exercise; fishing; fitness activities; indoor sports; outdoor activities; personal contact sports; racquet sports; shooting sports; team sports; water sports; wheel sports; winter sports; and other sports/activities.

In this study, there are annual participation figures for 1987 (benchmark year); 1990; 1993; 1998; 2000; 2004; and 2005. It also lists percentage changes for 2004 vs. 2005; 1998 vs. 2005; and 1987 vs. 2005.

From a growth perspective, the ten activities with the most statistically-significant percentage increases in participation from 2004 to 2005 were lacrosse (+77.5%), fly fishing (+41.6%), surfing (+37.3%), ice hockey (+29.4%), mountain biking (+21.2%), yoga/tai chi (+18.1%), artificial wall climbing (+15.8%), indoor soccer (+15.5%), jet skiing (+14.5%), and kayaking (+13.3%).

(For calendar year 2005; 6 years of age or older; participated at least once per year)

1. Bowling53.5 million
2. Treadmill Exercise48.0 million
3. Stretching42.3 million
4. Freshwater Fishing42.1 million
5. Tent Camping38.6 million
6. Running/Jogging37.8 million
7. Day Hiking36.6 million
8. Fitness Walking36.3 million
9. Billiards/Pool35.2 million
10. Basketball32.0 million
11. Hand Weights31.4 million
12. Weight/Resistance Machines29.0 million
13. Dumbells28.4 million
14. Golf 25.7 million
15. Calisthenics24.9 million
16. Barbells23.0 million
17. Darts18.8 million
18. Tennis18.3 million
19. RV Camping18.2 million
20. Hunting (Shotgun/Rifle)18.0 million
21. Elliptical Motion Trainer16.7 million
22. Abdominal Machine/ Exercise16.5 million
22. Inline Skating16.5 million
24. Outdoor Soccer15.8 million
25. Stationary Cycling (Upright Bike)15.6 million

Other prominent sports located outside the top 25 sports/activities are: fitness swimming (14.6 million), ice skating (14.6 million), touch football (14.1 million), table tennis (14.1 million), slow-pitch softball (12.9 million), skateboarding (11.4 million), paintball (10.4 million), Pilates Training (10.4 million), baseball (10.3 million), water skiing (7.3 million), tackle football (5.8 million), racquetball (4.9 million), fast-pitch softball (3.5 million), and surfing (2.7 million).

A free copy of SGMA's Sports Participation Topline Report (2006 edition), which lists the participation figures for more than 100 activities, is available on

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, owner of the Sports Research Partnership, is the global business trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry. SGMA enhances industry vitality and fosters sports, fitness, and active lifestyle participation. More information about SGMA can be found at


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