Nearly Half of Americans Participate in Outdoor Recreation


From the Outdoor Foundation:

Almost 143 million Americans, or 49.2 percent of the US population, participated in an outdoor activity at least once in 2013. Although the actual number of outdoor participants increased since 2012, the participation rate fell slightly, due to population growth. The findings are part of The Outdoor Foundation’s 2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, the leading report tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation with a focus on youth and diversity.

The Outdoor Foundation’s eighth 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 19,000 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, shows mixed results about the youngest generations’ participation in outdoor activities. Participation among teenage girls made up for some of the losses seen in 2012 by adding three percentage points. Meanwhile, participation rates among girls and young women increased by two percentage points — bringing young women’s participation to the highest rate since 2006. Participation among male youth, on the other hand, either fell or remained steady.

“The Outdoor Participation Report shows that the percentage of female youth who are inspired to enjoy the outdoors is on the rise,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “Although encouraged by the report’s findings, we also recognize that the importance of continuing efforts to engage all young people in outdoor recreation so that we may foster a new generation of passionate outdoor enthusiasts and committed stewards.”

The insights detailed in the 2014 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:


  • While 8.1 million Americans started participating in one or more of the outdoor activities measured, 7.4 million stopped. There was net gain of 700,000 total participants and a low churn rate of 5.2 percent.
  • Participants went on a total of 12.1 billion outdoor outings in 2013, a minor decrease from 12.4 billion in 2012.
  • Almost one-quarter of all outdoor enthusiasts participated in outdoor activities at least twice per week.
  • Running, including jogging and trail running, was the most popular activity among Americans when measured by number of participants and by number of total annual outings.
  • Fifty-five percent of people living in the West North Central region of the US participated in outdoor activities last year, making its population the most active in outdoor participation.
  • Walking for fitness is the most popular crossover activity.
  • The biggest motivator for outdoor participation was getting exercise.


  • Among children and young adults, participation rose one percentage point, while the rates among the two older age groups lost one percentage point. Teenagers maintained the same participation rate.
  • Youth who did not participate in outdoor activities said they were simply not interested in the outdoors.
  • Among adults who are current outdoor participants, 74 percent had physical education and 41 percent enjoyed outdoor activities in elementary school.


  • As seen in previous reports, outdoor participation is highest among Caucasians and lowest among African Americans.
  • Although Hispanics Americans made up a small percentage of total outdoor participants, those who did participate averaged the most annual outdoor outings per person.
  • Running was the most popular outdoor activity for all Americans regardless of ethnic or racial affiliation.

Download a complete copy of the 2014 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report.


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