Nearly half of the U.S. population participated in an outdoor activity at least once in 2016. According to the latest Outdoor Recreation Participation Report by The Outdoor Foundation, released on Aug. 7, the participation rate was 48.8 percent, up from 48.4 percent in 2015. That means an addition of around 2 million people, to reach 144.4 million outdoor participants. The rate was also at 48.4 percent in 2014, while it had been over 49 percent during the previous three years. If we look at the last ten years, the peak was reached in 2007 with an outdoor participation rate of 50 percent.
On a negative note, the number of outdoor outings decreased, from 11.7 billion in 2015 to 11.0 billion in 2016. The average number of outdoor outings per person also decreased, from 82.5 in 2015 to 77 in 2016. On the more active side of participation, 21 percent of participants enjoyed outdoor activities at least twice per week. On the less active side, 32 percent participated in outdoor activities less than once a month.
The most active population in outdoor activities lived in the South Atlantic region of the U.S., which contributed 19 percent of all U.S. outdoor participants. The region includes the southern states on the Eastern seaboard and West Virginia. The Pacific region, which includes the states on the West coast, followed with a 17 percent rate.
Running, including jogging and trail running, was the most popular outdoor activity among Americans, with 52.3 million participants, namely 18 percent. The second was freshwater, saltwater and fly fishing with 16 percent; followed by road biking, mountain biking and BMX at 15 percent; hiking at 14 percent, and car, backyard, backpacking and RV camping at 14 percent.
Youth participation increased among boys but decreased among girls. The participation rate among males aged 6 to 17 increased by 1 percent to reach 65 percent. Participation among females in the same age group dropped by 1 percent. Gender participation experienced opposite results among young adults aged 18 to 24, with participation among males down by 2 percent to 54 percent, and participation among females up by 3 percent to reach 56 percent.
Data shows that the adults who were introduced to outdoor activities as children were more likely to participate in outdoor activities as adults than those who were not exposed to the outdoors as children. Among the adults who benefited from early exposure, 37 percent continue to participate in outdoor activities as adults, whereas only 16 percent do not currently participate in any outdoor activities.
Asians showed the highest participation rate at 51 percent, up by 1.2 percent on average over the past five years. Caucasian participation now follows with 50 percent, after a 0.9 percent average annual decline over the past five years. Hispanics are at 48 percent, up by 1.8 percent on a five-year average growth rate. Black participation is at 33 percent, up by 0.4 percent on average over the past five years. Running emerged as the most popular outdoor activity among the majority of ethnicities except for white participants, who participated in fishing at a higher rate than running.
Getting exercise emerged as the biggest motivator for outdoor participation, cited by 64 percent. The motivators that were also cited by more than 50 percent included being with family and friends, cited by 55 percent, and keeping physically fit at 50 percent.
The Outdoor Recreation Participation Report 2017 is based on an online survey of more than 20,000 Americans aged six and older. The study covered 114 different outdoor activities.