Participation in Outdoor Recreation Hit Five-Year High in 2011

In 2011, participation in outdoor recreation reached a five-year record in the U.S.—perhaps signaling a move toward healthier, active lifestyles. More than 141 million Americans, or 49.4 percent of the U.S. population, participated in outdoor activities last year—reflecting an increase of 3 million people compared to 2010 and continuing a five-year trend.
 
In addition, Americans made a total of 11.6 billion outdoor outings in 2011, which is 1.5 billion more than the previous year. Annually, participants averaged 82 outdoor outings – from hiking to biking, skiing to paddling. The findings are part of the 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report, the leading report tracking outdoor participation trends in United States published by The Outdoor Foundation.

“This report shows that Americans are getting up and getting outside – a great trend for the outdoor community and the country,” said Christine Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “We are encouraged by the growing population of active young people, which reflects recent efforts to re-engage and re-inspire America’s youth to get outdoors.”

The research shows increases in youth and young adult participation – continuing an encouraging, yet modest, trend over the last few years. Outdoor participation increased by one-percentage in every age bracket, six to 12, 13 to 17 and 18 to 24 respectively. This accounted for more than 4 billion outdoor outings for the younger generation with an annual average of nearly 90 outdoor outings.

While encouraging, these rates are significantly lower than those recorded in 2006. For example, 63 percent of youth ages six to 12 participated in outdoor recreation in 2011, compared to 78 percent in 2006.

The most popular activities among young people, in terms of overall participation, continued to be running, biking, camping, fishing and hiking. Skateboarding, triathlons and bird-watching were among their top five favorite activities as measured by frequency. Interestingly, adults share a passion for similar recreational pursuits.

“We are seeing promising outdoor participation trends among traditional audiences across many recreation activities,” continued Fanning. “However, our preliminary data analysis shows that we are losing ground among minority populations and other important emerging markets. We will provide detailed information on all the trends in our signature 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, which will be released soon.”

Published annually by The Outdoor Foundation with research support from the Department of Recreation, Park & Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University, the 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report is derived from almost 40,000 online interviews conducted in January 2012/early February 2012. Respondents came from a nationwide sample of individuals and households from the U.S. Online Panel operated by Synovate. Over-sampling of ethnic groups took place to boost response from typically under-responding groups.

The 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report is available for free at outdoorfoundation.org.