For the seventh year in a row, The Outdoor Foundation has produced the Outdoor Recreation Participation Report to provide a deeper understanding of American participation in outdoor activities with a focus on youth and diversity. This annual report helps explain the state of outdoor participation for the outdoor industry, federal officials and state and local organizations.
In 2012, Americans took advantage of the diversity and accessibility of the nation’s outdoor opportunities. Nearly half — 49.4% — of all Americans participated in some form of outdoor recreation last year. Although the overall participation rate remained the same as it was in 2011, the number of participants is the highest recorded in this report, thanks to population growth. Nearly 142 million people enjoyed outdoor recreation, up about 800,000 since 2011.
Other key findings of the report:
• Although the percentage of outdoor participants is the same as it was in 2011, the number of participants grew by about 800,000, thanks to population growth.
• 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.
• 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%.
• 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 activities among Americans when measured by number of participants and by number of total annual outings.
• The outdoor participation rate among adolescent boys ages 13 to 17 continued to rise in 2012, adding three-percentage points in the past two years.
• Outdoor participation rates declined among adolescent girls. With just over half of adolescent girls participating in outdoor recreation, the participation rate is the lowest recorded since this report began in 2006.
• 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% had physical education and 42% 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.