Quarter of U.S. Still Inactive

According to the recently released 2018 Physical Activity Council Participation Report on sports and activities in the U.S., 28% of the population or 82.4 million Americans, are considered inactive. For more than five years now, more than a quarter of the U.S. population has indicated they were inactive.

On the other hand, there is some good news. The annual report also indicates a moderate rise in participation for many sports and activities, including fitness sports, outdoor sports and winter sports. And it’s possible the recent increases in activity are greatly influenced by an aging population, suggest the finding.

As capabilities and energy may decrease with age, Baby Boomers are far more involved in fitness sports than in any other category, as they actively acknowledge the importance of their health. However, in the past year, inactivity rates among Americans ages 65 and up have increased nearly 2%, surpassing 40% overall for this age group. This inactivity rate is nearly 10% greater than the inactive population just years younger, in the 55-64 age group.

Aside from older Americans, almost every generation is becoming more active, according to the PAC report. “As our population evolves and ages, it’s exciting to see all age groups in new, fun activities,” said Jolyn de Boer, Executive Director of the Tennis Industry Association. “Whether it’s stand up paddling, pickleball, indoor golf or Cardio Tennis, we are seeing real growth and innovation in the ways Americans recreate.”

As would be expected, Generation Z, those born in the 2000’s and making up 17% of the U.S. population, is the most active. Baby Boomers, born from 1945 to 1964 and comprising about 25% of the population, are the least active.

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“While the number of inactive Americans continues to be a major concern for our country, we are encouraged that the rate of increase has slowed.” says Tom Cove, President/CEO of Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Of concern, in particular, is that inactivity rates among low-income households are nearing historic levels. Forty-two percent of households making an annual income of less than $25,000 are now reporting to be inactive, and this is the sixth consecutive year this demographic has experienced an increase in inactivity. On the flip side, households with an annual income over $75,000 continues to experience decreasing inactivity rates. Call in the “activity divide.”

“Americans in substantial numbers continue to be engaged in a wide variety of sports, fitness and outdoor activities,” Cove says, “but trends that suggest financial resources determine activity levels need to be addressed.”

Consider soccer in the U.S. Many within youth soccer circles are concerned that the costs and travel expenses of club (travel) soccer and the paying of club soccer coaches is making the sport inaccessible to all but the wealthiest Americans. Around much the world, meanwhile, soccer (futbol) is considered a sport very accessible to all, including the lowest income cohorts.

The annual Participation Report measures overall levels of activity and identifies trends in more than 100 specific sports, fitness, and recreation activities. The report also examines spending habits, the effect of physical education, and participation interests among non-participants. The research was conducted by Sports Marketing Surveys USA, and the findings are based on an annual online survey of 30,999 Americans age six and older. The full version of the 2018 Participation Report can be found at PhysicalActivityCouncil.com.


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