Millions of Americans Are Inactive, Survey Says

Close to 65 million people in the United States are inactive, according to a recent survey by the Physical Activity Council (PAC). Of this group, 34 percent are between the ages of 6 and 34. The study also shows that in the past three years, the number of inactive kids, ages 6-12, has doubled.

The PAC’s study analyzed overall participation in sports, fitness and recreational activities.

This year’s study also asked respondents to state which activities they would like to participate in but currently do not. These ranged from fishing and bird watching to ice hockey and kickboxing.

“The whole concept of measuring people’s aspirations when it comes to sports participation has previously not been done in this sort of research environment,” said Keith Storey, vice president of Sports Marketing Surveys USA, which coordinated the survey. “The answers to these questions show there is a clear desire by Americans to participate in a number of fitness, sports and outdoor activities, but they just don’t know where to start. It is this pent-up demand that presents both an opportunity and a challenge to our seven organizations. The survey results prove that people want to ‘get off the sidelines’ and participate but might need a bit of a push to get going.”

The member organizations of PAC are the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the National Golf Foundation, Snowsports Industries America, The Outdoor Foundation, the Tennis Industry Association, the United States Tennis Association and the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association.

The survey found that innovative equipment designs in elliptical, treadmills and stationary bikes have all increased in sales in the last year. So, too, have aerobics classes and participants in free weights.

The popularity of running also has increased. This is perhaps due to its low cost and the flexibility in time and location it offers participants. Other inexpensive sports also have increased in popularity. In the past 11 years, tennis participation has increased 42 percent, while golf participation has decreased. With its membership fees and cost of equipment, golf remains the No. 1 solitary physical activity but is decreasing, partly due to the older age of participants. Traditional team sports are becoming less popular due to families cutting back on budgets.

Children often receive training in a variety of sports at school, but when schools cut back on physical activity time and requirements, children become more inactive. Inactive youths are three times more likely to live sedentary lifestyles as adults, according to the PAC.

“Everyone knows that daily physical activity is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, yet a dangerously large portion of our society is totally sedentary,” said Tom Cove, president and CEO of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. “It’s obvious our country cannot sustain these trends of inactivity, especially for people under 35. The good news is the data shows many people want to be more active. This is a clarion call for our society--industry, communities, government and the non-profit sector--to be more committed and creative in providing sports, fitness and recreation opportunities for every American.”

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