The number of Americans who were inactive in 2015 improved slightly compared to 2014, according to a new study released by the Physical Activity Council.
There were 81.6 million inactive Americans in 2015 compared to 82.7 million inactive Americans in 2014, marking the largest year-over-year drop since 2010, according to the 2016 Participation Report.
An “inactive” person is defined as one who does not participate in any of the 102 sports or activities covered by the annual report, which includes a range of individual and team sports as well as walking and running activities. Research for the report was based on an online survey of 30,000 Americans ages 6 and older.
“The slight increase in overall activity levels is a positive sign; however, the country is still experiencing worrisome levels of inactivity,” Tom Cove, Physical Activity Council chairman and president, and Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) president, said in a statement. “The entire sports and fitness industry must continue to band together to raise awareness of the inactivity pandemic and promote viable solutions to get Americans of all ages living active and healthy lifestyles.”
Spending on activities has become more conservative during the last three years, the report noted. Spending on gym memberships and fees ranked fifth among respondents (29.3 percent), falling behind sports and recreation footwear spending (45.3 percent), sports and recreation clothing spending (44 percent), outdoor recreation activities spending (39.5 percent), and sports and recreation equipment spending (34.9 percent).
The Baby Boomer generation was more likely to participate in a fitness activity more than any other category (60 percent), the report noted. Fitness sports recorded the highest participation rate among Millennials (66.7 percent) and Generation X (66.2 percent).
"It is encouraging to see an increase in overall participation in sports, fitness and related physical activities in 2015, considering participation had been on the decline over the past few years. The fact that one out of five Americans utilizes a health club is great news,” Joe Moore, president and CEO, International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), said in a statement. “However, considering there are still 81.6 million Americans who do not engage in any significant physical activity, it's clear that the fitness and sports industries must provide even more assistance and support to help people develop the habit of ongoing physical activity."
Inactivity decreased for most age groups, with 13- to 17-year-olds having the biggest drop (1.4 percent) and 35- to 44-year-olds having the lowest decrease (0.2 percent) in 2015. Respondents between the ages of 45 to 54 remained flat in inactivity, and there was a gradual increase in inactivity for 55- to 64-year-olds.
The biggest motivators for inactive people to become active were having someone to take part in the activity with (42.9 percent), having a friend take the individual along (31.8 percent), an introductory lesson (17.3 percent) and new equipment (11.7 percent). Swimming for fitness was listed in the top three activities of interest by non-participant respondents ages 6 to 54, and its recorded the highest interest level in the 25 to 34 age group.
“One of the most important findings of this report and an overall trend that we’re seeing across activity sectors is people prefer to participate with friends,” Christine Fanning, executive director, Outdoor Foundation, said in a statement. “As we try to engage new audiences, it will be critical to highlight, promote and even expand the social aspects of activities.”
Interest in wearable devices grew in 2015, according to the report. Among inactive respondents, 4.9 percent plan on purchasing wearable technology in 2016, marking a 1.9 percent increase from 2014. Among active respondents, 12.5 percent plan on purchasing wearable technology in 2016, marking a 3.2 percent increase from 2014. Respondents who use fitness trackers that sync with a computer, tablet or smartphone increased from 8.4 percent in 2014 to 12.9 percent in 2015. Usage of pedometers (10.5 percent) and heart rate monitors (5.5 percent) also grew.
The Physical Activity Council is made up of IHRSA, SFIA, the National Golf Foundation, the Outdoor Industry Association and Outdoor Foundation, Snowsports Industry of America, the Tennis Industry Association, the United States Tennis Association and USA Football.