Americans Enjoy Fitness More Than Sports

Use equipment and take your sessions outside.

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Jun 14, 2019

When it comes to being physically active, more Americans choose fitness pursuits over sports, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2019 SFIA Topline Report. The report is based on nationwide survey data across activity categories and includes responses from children (ages 6 and up) up to older adults. In 2018, fitness categories that use equipment reflected the highest growth. And, compared with 2013, at least 3.5% more Americans attended class-based exercises such as HIIT, cross-training, barre and yoga.

Survey data revealed that more Americans are choosing to exercise outside. Trail running, cross-country skiing, standup paddling and hiking have all seen average annual increases of 7% or more, reflecting a growth trend over the past 3–5 years.

The good news, however, is mixed. While more Americans have taken up fitness and sports activities, there’s been a simultaneous shift toward casual participation—meaning once or twice a week—instead of more frequent engagement. Barriers to physical activity include a lack of disposable income, family responsibilities, increases in work hours and the need to unwind. Authors of the report urge sports and fitness professionals to amplify motivation in those who have begun adopting a more active lifestyle and to encourage frequency in their chosen activities. In other words, make an extra effort to reach out to new participants, and consider creative ways to motivate them to keep coming back for more.

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See also: No-Equipment Outdoor Workouts


Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at

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