Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The State of Outdoor Participation in the U.S.

The Outdoor Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor enthusiasts, has released its annual report examining the level of participation in outdoor activities witin the U.S. That report has both some encouraging and disappointing findings in terms of how engaged people are with the outdoors, and what the outlook is amongst young people today.

During their research the Outdoor Foundation discovered that nearly half of all Americans claim to have taken part in some outdoor activity in the past year. That number is 48.4% to be specific. While that sounds like a reasonably high  number on the surface, the fact that respondents only needed to take part in a single activity over that 12-month span indicates to me that most people aren't engaging with the outdoors in a meaningful way on a regular basis.

A deeper look at the numbers tells a similar tale. According to a press release from the Foundation, these numbers are down .8% from 2013, which doesn't sound like a lot in the grand scheme of things. But, this is also the lowest level of outdoor participation since the organization began tracking the data back in 2006. In other words, fewer people are getting outside and taking part in these activities.

The report says that there are some bright spots however, particularly in waterspouts. Stand-up paddleboarding continues to grow substantially, up 38% in 2014 over the previous year. Snow sports are also doing well with telemarking, snowshoeing, freestyle skiing and cross-country skiing all showing significant gains.

Sadly however, both running and cycling saw a drop in numbers. As the report says, these are often "gateway" activities that lead people to engage with the outdoors more fully, but both saw fewer participating. Well, that is, less people were doing them outside. Research indicates that more people were running on treadmills and stationary bikes inside however. Poor weather and shifting climate conditions was blamed for this drop.

The complete report isn't due out until later this summer, and it should have more details about outdoor participation as a whole. But obviously it is disappointing to hear that fewer people are heading outside. I'm not sure what can help reverse this trend, but hopefully something will come along that can do that soon. I can't imagine not going for a daily run outside, hiking some trails. paddling a river, or camping under the stars. Finding ways for others to fall in love with those experiences is one of the goals of this blog, and so I am a bit disheartened to say the least.

No comments: