Participation in Outdoor Recreation Hits Five-Year High

Participation in outdoor recreation reached a five-year high in 2011 with nearly 50 percent of all Americans ages six and older enjoying the outdoors. That equates to 141.1 million American outdoor participants. The findings are part of The Outdoor Foundation’s 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, the leading report tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation with a focus on youth, diversity and the future of the outdoors.

The Outdoor Foundation’s sixth annual Outdoor Recreation Participation Report helps the outdoor industry, public agencies and community organizations better understand the trends in outdoor recreation participation, enabling groups to address America’s inactivity crisis and the disconnect between children and the outdoors. The report is based on an online survey of more than 40,000 Americans ages six and older and covers 114 different outdoor activities, making it the largest survey of its kind.

The study, which provides an in-depth look at youth, identifies an upward trend in outdoor participation among America’s youngest generations. Youth participation overall grew by one-percentage point in each age group, from 6 to 24.

Among young boys, outdoor participation grew by two-percentage points – reversing a downward trend that began in 2007. Although participation rates for girls the same age remained stagnant, participation among female teenagers grew by two-percentage points to reach the highest participation rate for female teenagers recorded in this report.

“The Outdoor Participation Report shows that, thanks to national efforts to connect Americans with the outdoors, people are increasingly more inspired to get up and get outside,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “We are especially encouraged by the report’s findings that more youth are enjoying outdoor activities, as this will ensure healthier children, healthier communities and healthier businesses.”

The insights detailed in the 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report are critical to national efforts seeking to understand outdoor participation and continuing to reverse America’s inactivity crisis. Some of the additional findings include:

  • In 2011, outdoor participants made 11.5 billion outings — that is 1.4 billion more outings than 2010.
  • Of all age groups, teenagers ages 13 to 17 have the most core outdoor participants (or regular participants) at 39 percent.
  • Almost half of all outdoor enthusiasts participate in outdoor activities at least once a week.
  • Participants in gateway activities are more likely to enjoy multiple outdoor activities, rather than just one. In fact, 87 percent of hikers participate in one or more other outdoor activities.
  • Although participation rates among youth ages six to 17 are up, average annual outings are down from 98 outings per participant in 2010 to 81 outings in 2011.
  • Youth who do not participate in outdoor activities say they are simply not interested in the outdoors. For young adults, lack of time is a bigger barrier than lack of interest.
  • Introducing outdoor recreation and physical activities early in life has a lasting effect. Among adults who are current outdoor participants, 82 percent report having a physical education class between the ages of six and 12. Forty-five percent of adult outdoor participants took part in outdoor activities from ages six to 12.
  • As seen in previous reports, participation in outdoor activities was significantly higher among Caucasians than any other ethnicity and lowest among African Americans.
  • * Although Hispanics have among the lowest overall outdoor participation rate, those that do participate go outside the most often.

To download a complete copy of the 2012 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, visit The Outdoor Foundation website at