Participation in outdoor recreation reached a six-year high in 2012 with 142 million Americans ages six and older enjoying the outdoors, according to the latest findings from the Outdoor Foundation. It represents an increase of about 800,000 outdoor participants since 2011 and equates to a participation rate of 49.4 percent.
The study, however, shows mixed results about outdoor participation among America’s youngest generations. While youth and young adult participation remained steady since 2011, adolescent participation dropped. The low participation rate can be attributed to a six-percent loss in participation among adolescent girls. On the other hand, adolescent boys’ participation continued to rise, adding three-percentage points since 2010.
“The Outdoor Participation Report shows that a record number of Americans are inspired to enjoy the outdoors,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “Although encouraged by the report’s findings, we also recognize that the nation must continue efforts to engage young people in outdoor recreation to foster a generation of passionate outdoor enthusiasts and committed stewards.”
Some of the additional findings include:
- While 13 million Americans started participating in outdoor activities in 2012, 12 million stopped. This is a net gain of one million total outdoor participants and a churn rate of 6.8 percent.
- The number of total outdoor outings increased, reaching an all-time high. Americans took 12.4 billion outdoor excursions in 2012, up from 11.5 billion excursions in 2011.
- Adventure racing grew the most over the past five years. The sport increased participation by 211 percent.
- Stand up paddling had the highest number of new participants in the past year. More than half of stand up paddling participants tried the sport for the first time in 2012.
- Almost one-quarter of all outdoor enthusiasts participate in outdoor activities at least twice per week.
- Running, including jogging and trail running, is the most popular activity among Americans when measured by number of participants and by number of total annual outings.
- Youth who do not participate in outdoor activities say they are not interested in the outdoors. For young adults, lack of time is a bigger barrier than lack of interest.
- Introducing outdoor recreation and physical activities early in life has a lasting effect. Among adults who are current outdoor participants, 75 percent had physical education and 42 percent enjoyed outdoor activities in elementary school.
- As seen in previous reports, outdoor participation is highest among Caucasians and lowest among African Americans.
- Although Hispanic Americans have one of the lowest outdoor participation rates, those who do participate go outside as often as Caucasians, who have the highest participation rate.