In 2008, American participation in outdoor recreation was marked by encouraging growth in important segments of core outdoor activities as well as continuing, though less dramatic, declines in youth participation, according to a new report, the 2009 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report, released today (Sept. 15) by The Outdoor Foundation.

These trends show the beginning of adjustments in American lifestyles brought about by a challenging economy, shifting demographics and changing times, according to a news release.

“In today’s economy, people are returning to simpler lifestyles,” said Christine Fanning, executive director of The Outdoor Foundation. “Historically economic downturns have resulted in increased participation in outdoor recreation. Nature-based activities provide fun, affordable recreation and vacation opportunities for individuals and families.”

The Outdoor Foundation’s 2009 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report is the only detailed study of its kind tracking American participation trends in outdoor recreation. The study is based on an on-line survey capturing responses from over 40,000 Americans ages 6-plus and covers 114 different activities.

Key Findings

  • Popular Pastimes: In 2008, 48.6% of Americans ages 6-plus participated in outdoor recreation and made an estimated 11.16 billion outdoor excursions.
  • A Return to Nature: Activities like backpacking, mountain biking and trail running showed double-digit increases in participation in 2008, and hiking and camping showed 9% and 7% increases, respectively.
  • More Indoor Youth: Participation in outdoor recreation among youth ages 6-17 dropped 6% — resulting in a combined 16.7% drop over the last three years.
  • Busy Lifestyles: Today’s kids are struggling to find time to get active outdoors and are foregoing outdoor pursuits in favor of other competing priorities. Among outdoor participants ages 6-17, lack of time is the primary reason they don’t get outdoors more often.
  • Outdoor Participation Varies by Ethnicity: Participation in outdoor activities is higher among Caucasians than any other ethnicity and lowest among African Americans in nearly all age groups.

The 2009 Outdoor Recreation Participation Report is available at www.outdoorfoundation.org/research

About The Outdoor Foundation

The Outdoor Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to inspiring and growing future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. Through ground-breaking research, action-oriented convening and outreach and education programs, The foundation is working with partners to mobilize a major cultural shift that leads all Americans to the great outdoors.