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144 Million Americans Participated in Outdoor Activities in 2016



Nearly half of Americans (48.6%) participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2016, according to the Outdoor Foundation's Outdoor Recreation Participation Topline Report 2017. The study also discovered overall participation increased slightly, up 0.2% from 2015. In all, 144 million Americans made 11 billion outdoor outings in 2016.


BMX Shows Greatest 3-year Jump in Participation


BMX biking had the greatest increase in participants from the previous year, jumping 15%. Hiking and cross-country skiing were close behind, with respective increases of 13% and 12%. Stand-up paddling saw the greatest 3-year growth in participation, with an 18% rise from 2013 to 2016. Cross-country skiing and BMX biking followed, each showing a 13% increase over the time period. Other top outdoor activities for growth over the previous three years included adventure racing (up 11%), boardsailing/windsurfing (up 10%) and kayak fishing (up 10%).


Running is Most Favored Outdoor Activity


The most popular outdoor activity for all ages in 2016 was running, jogging and trail running, with 25.3% of youth and young adults ages 6 to 24 participating; 14.8% of adults 25 and older were runners. Bicycling, camping, fishing and hiking rounded out the top 5 most popular outdoor activities for all age groups by participation rate, summarized below.


For the youth and young adult demographic:


  • 20.3 million (25.3%) went running, jogging or trail running
  • 18.2 million (22.6%) participated in bicycling (road, mountain and BMX)
  • 15.6 million (19.5%) went fishing (fresh, salt and fly)
  • 15.3 million (19%) participated in camping (car, backyard and RV)
  • 12.5 million (15.5%) went hiking


In the adult market:


  • 32 million (14.8%) participated in running, jogging, trail running
  • 31.5 million (14.6%) went fishing (fresh, salt and fly)
  • 29.7 million (13.7%) went hiking
  • 27.7 million (12.8%) participated in bicycling (road, mountain and BMX)
  • 25.2 million (11.7%) participated in camping (car, backyard and RV)


Camping is Top Choice for Non-participants


The Foundation's study also measured aspirational participation, which gauges a non-participants’ interest in specific outdoor recreation, sports, fitness and leisure activities. Youths and young adults, ages 6 to 12, 13 to 17 and 18 to 24, all agreed that camping was the activity they wished most to try. Camping was almost a unanimous aspirational choice for adults, too. It was the second most popular option for adults ages 25 to 34, and number one for the 35- to 44-year old and 45-and-older demographics.


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