Individual sports such as tennis, golf, running, hiking, skateboarding, and surfing thrived in 2020 as Americans pursued a host of pandemic-acceptable sports and fitness activities, according to SFIA’s Annual Topline Participation Report.
The report measures the participation rates of all Americans, ages 6 and above, tracking 120 sport, fitness and outdoor activities. Also, this year’s report features a special section titled COVID-19 Effect on Participation.
Helping to drive growth in individual sports was a participant’s ability to participate in these activities outdoors and socially-distant. Conversely, team sports, which do not lend themselves to social distancing, struggled to maintain participation levels. Exacerbating this trend was the significant impact of school and park closures, taking away access to scholastic, travel/competitive and recreational sports. However, SFIA’s trend analysis suggests that a substantial amount of informal team sports activity, such as backyard play, did occur. To this end, basketball and ultimate frisbee recorded increases in core participation rates.
COVID-19 was a double-edged sword for the fitness industry. With gyms and health clubs forced to close, fitness participation levels overall decreased in 2020. Fitness activities at home, including yoga, Pilates and kettlebells, showed robust participation increases. Traditionally popular activities found in health clubs or studios, like stationary cycling (group), stair-climbing machines and cardio kickboxing, experienced significant declines.
Notably, the number of totally inactive Americans, defined as those who did not participate in any 120 tracked activities, dropped by 7 million. This 2.4 percent decrease from 2019 marks the largest decline in inactive Americans since SFIA introduced its survey in 2008, one positive sign from a complicated year.
In all, the report indicates that Americans stayed reasonably active, but not with the same frequency and avidity as in pre-pandemic times. Americans sought out pandemic-appropriate activities where they could, with varying degrees of success and sustainability.
“2020 brought unprecedented challenges for Americans looking to be physically active, but we find hope in the millions of Americans who changed their habits, venues and activities to exercise and play,” said Tom Cove, SFIA president and CEO. “At the same time, we see so many people yearning for their children and themselves to get back on fields, courts and health clubs. We all must work together to provide safer sports and fitness opportunities as soon as possible.”
To view the full report, go here.