PAC Releases Data on Sports, Fitness Participation

Efforts to engage children in physical activities and sports—including tennis—are starting to have an effect on America’s youngest generation, according to a new study released by the Physical Activity Council (PAC), a partnership of major trade associations in the sports, fitness and leisure industries.

Inactivity among children ages 6 to 12 declined slightly from 4.6 million youngsters in 2010 to 4.5 million in 2011; inactivity among ages 13 to 17 remained fairly flat. While figures specific to tennis are unavailable at this time, promotions for 10 and Under Tennis, which uses equipment and courts sized for kids, together with a push for tennis in school physical education programs, may be helping to keep youngsters active. A big consumer push for 10 and Under Tennis, which includes a partnership with the Nickelodeon TV network, was launched in February and will continue through 2012.

The news isn’t so good for adults ages 18 and older: Those not participating in any of the 119 physical activities measured continued to increase, from 58.7 million in 2010 to 60 million in 2011. The research is part of the 2012 Participation Report, an annual study tracking sports, fitness and recreation participation in the U.S. The findings are based on an online survey of more than 38,000 Americans ages 6 and older.

Overall, the study shows that 68.1 million Americans ages 6 and older, or 23.9% of the U.S. population, were completely inactive in 2011. That’s an increase of 1.1 million from 2010; however, the rate of increase has slowed slightly from previous years. According to the study, there are 217 million Americans ages 6 and up who do participate in at least one sport or activity measured.

In racquet sports, the “core” participation rate, measuring those who participate on a regular or frequent basis, increased 1%, to about 7% of the total population. The racquet sports category was the only one to see an increase in the core participation rate. Tennis still holds a commanding lead among traditional sports in the percentage growth in participation since 2000, according to data from the Physical Activity Council. In fact, tennis is the only traditional sport to have a positive growth rate overall from 2000 to 2011.

However, the “total” participation rate for racquet sports declined 2%, to 12% of the total population. This followed a decline overall in sports, fitness and related physical activities.

According to the study, most U.S. states have an inactivity rate of over 18.8 percent. Mississippi has the highest rate of inactivity, with nearly 32 percent of the population not participating in one or more high calorie-burning activities, defined as any activity where the participant can work up a sweat. That’s followed by West Virginia, Louisiana, New Mexico, Tennessee, New York, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Utah has the highest rate of physical activity with almost 62 percent of the population participating in calorie-burning activities. Idaho follows close behind, then New Hampshire, Colorado, Minnesota, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nevada, Oregon and Illinois.

The same study also measured spending trends in 2011 compared to 2010. In that period, for “tennis memberships/fees,” .8% “spent more,” 5.4% spent the same, and 1.4% “spent less,” with 92.4% not spending at all in the category. Of those who did spend for tennis memberships/fees, 18.4% spent less and 10.5% spent more than in 2010.

In efforts to reverse the increases in obesity and inactive Americans, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) has been leading the way in supporting and promoting two important pieces of legislation: the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) and the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT).

The PEP bill is a federal grant program that, since 2001, has provided nearly $800 million in funding to local school districts and community-based organizations to provide quality physical education. The PHIT Act would make physical activity more affordable by allowing Americans to deduct or be reimbursed with pre-tax dollars for expenses related to physical activities, such as health club costs, sports equipment, even tennis fees. For more on these initiatives, visit sgma.com.

The Physical Activity Council is made up of the SGMA, National Golf Foundation, Snowsports Industries America, Outdoor Foundation, Tennis Industry Association, U.S. Tennis Association, and International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.