Want to know what the biggest demand for sports facilities might be? Check and see which activities are growing. The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) just released its annual Topline Participation Report, the largest sports and fitness participation survey in the U.S., tracking 120 activities at both core and casual levels, reveals all seven major categories (Fitness Sports, Individual Sports, Outdoor Sports, Racquet Sports, Team Sports, Water Sports and Winter Sports).
And there was good news, sort of. The youth inactivity rates (ages 6-12 and 13-17) continued their moderate decline.
In the team sports category, basketball and baseball, the two sports with the largest total participation base, are showing the strongest gains. Also, niche sports, such as lacrosse, ice hockey, beach volleyball and gymnastics, experienced increases at the core level (which is the best reflection of athletes committed to the sport) but decreases in casual/overall participation.
Indoor fitness facilities have been staying busy; nearly every equipment-based category experienced growth, including treadmill, elliptical, stationary cycling, rowing machine, kettlebells and many others. (It is possible this relates to the growth of CrossFit and other functional fitness programs).
Additionally, a lot of Americans are headed outside for their workout. The following outdoor activities gained a minimum of 7% average annual increases: trail running, cross-country skiing, stand-up paddling, and hiking.
Among racquet sports, the biggest gains were reported in pickleball (a 5.5% gain over 2017) and Cardio Tennis (a 12.4% gain over 2017). Tennis made a very slight gain (less than 1%) over last year but has yet to get back to the high it recorded in 2016. Interestingly, squash grew its core participation by 9.4%. (Squash, which is campaigning for a place in the 2024 Olympic Games, has launched a number of participation initiatives.)
The 2019 Topline Participation Report is free to SFIA members and available to the public for purchase here.