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As Childhood Obesity Rates Rise, Youth Outdoor Participation Declines

New Report: The Outdoor Foundation Releases Outdoor Recreation Participation Study

Findings include increase in overall participation and declining youth participation

WASHINGTON, Jan. 12 /PRNewswire/ -- The Outdoor Foundation today announced the release of the 2008 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, the only detailed study of its kind tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation. The findings highlighted in the report are areas of both opportunity and concern: while overall participation in outdoor recreation among Americans is increasing, the connection to nature among youth is declining.

The 2008 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, is based on an on-line survey capturing responses from over 60,000 Americans ages six and older and covers 114 different outdoor activities, making it the largest survey of its type examining participation in sports and outdoor activities. The survey represents a collaborative effort among The Outdoor Foundation, Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, National Golf Foundation, and SnowSports Industries America.

The report provides important insights into trends in participation in outdoor recreation among all Americans, with focused looks at youth, diversity, and gender.

According to the report, over 50% of Americans participated in outdoor recreation in 2007, getting outside 11.36 billion times -- either close to home, in a nearby park or on an overnight trip.

While the increase in participation comes as good news to the outdoor recreation industry, the report also reveals over an 11% decline in participation in outdoor activities among youth age 6 to 17 with the sharpest declines among youth age 6 to 12.

The insights detailed in the 2008 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report are critical to efforts nationwide seeking to understand and reverse the growing inactivity crisis among youth and the growing disconnect between youth and the outdoors.

"Children in America are suffering from the effects of obesity and inactivity at unprecedented levels," said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. "Teaching youth the benefits of a healthy active outdoor lifestyle will ensure healthier children, healthier communities, and healthier businesses."

Key findings contained in the report are:

Participation Among All Americans

  • Participation in outdoor activities increased in 2007 to 50.0% of Americans - from 134.4 million American participants in 2006 to 138.4 million Americans.
  • Americans made an estimated 11.36 billion outdoor excursions in 2007 -- either close to home, in a nearby park or on an overnight trip.

Youth Participation

  • Participation among youth ages 6 to 17 dropped over 11% in 2007.
  • Participation among boys and girls age 6-12 experienced the sharpest drop. Girls had the biggest decline falling from 77% to 61%. Boys fell from 79% to 72%.
  • Most youth are introduced to outdoor activities by parents, friends, family, and relatives.
  • For youth, "fun" is by far the most common motivation for participating in outdoor activities. Other motivators include discovery, exploration, new experiences, and exercise.


  • Participation in outdoor activities is highest among Caucasians for all age groups. Participation is lowest among African Americans. Participation among African American youth is lower than Caucasian, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islander youth, and the consequences of this are evident in participation rates throughout adulthood.
  • Although the participation rate in outdoor activities is lower among Hispanics and African Americans than Caucasians, those who do participate get outside and make more outings than Caucasians.


  • Among males, participation in outdoor activities exceeds participation in indoor activities and team ball sports for ages 25 to 65.
  • Among females, although indoor fitness activities are more popular than team ball sports and outdoor activities for age groups 18 and under, participation in outdoor activities increases among female participants between 18 and 44.

Over the next four weeks, The Outdoor Foundation will release additional in-depth analysis of each segment studied in the report.

A full copy of the 2008 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report can be downloaded from The Outdoor Foundation website at

About The Outdoor Foundation

The Outdoor Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization established by the Outdoor Industry Association Board of Directors to inspire and grow future generations of outdoor Americans. Learn more about The Foundation at or email at or call 303.444.3353.

SOURCE The Outdoor Foundation
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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