Weight-training is up. Group stationary cycling is still way down. The annual Topline Participation Report from Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) reveals American fitness trends over the past three years (2019-2022), a period which included a pandemic that upended the gym industry. The good news is 77.6% of Americans aged 6+ participated in at least one fitness or sports activity in 2022, up 9.2% from 2017 and 1.9% from 2021. Let’s look more deeply at the specific fitness trends.
THREE-YEAR FITNESS TRENDS
Of the 24 fitness activities tracked, 16 still trailed 2019 participation rates. First, the good news. The following eight activities had an increase in participation over those three years: Pilates (11.6%); yoga (10.4%); kettlebells (6.5%); dance and other choreographed exercise to music (5%); barre (3.8%); dumbbells (3.3%); walking for fitness (3%) and barbells (1.1%). It’s interesting that they divided free weights into three categories with kettlebell participation growing the most, but we’re happy to see all free-weights up.
Now, the bad news. The gym activities with the biggest decreases in participation from 2019 to 2022 were: group stationary cycling (such as spinning) (-36.9%), cross-training (-31.7%), boot camp style training (-24%), machine stair climbing (-24%) and cardio kickboxing (-21.3%). These are all vigorous cardio workouts, and, other than stair climbing, typically group activities. The pandemic impacted these fitness trends hard.
ONE-YEAR FITNESS TRENDS
When we look at the changes from only 2021 to 2022, we see some of the depressed activities bouncing back. In fact, cardio kickboxing had the largest one-year participation increase (8.5%). Group stationary cycling rebounded (5.5%), but still has a long way to go to return to 2019 levels. Meanwhile, Pilates experienced more than half (5.8%) of its three-year growth last year.
Racquet sports was the biggest one-year trend, mostly due to pickleball. Participation in racquet sports increased 17.6% compared to 2021, the highest growth of any of the 124 sports and activities tracked by the SFIA. Pickleball grew an amazing 85.7% from 2021.
On the other hand, cross-training continued to decrease (-5.3%) last year. Other significant one-year decliners were bodyweight exercise and bodyweight accessory-assisted training (-2.6%), running/jogging (-2.4%), and elliptical motion/cross trainers (-2.1%). Some of these decliners were likely because of fewer people training at home as more people returned to gyms.
TOP 5 FITNESS ACTIVITIES
1. WALKING FOR FITNESS — 114.8 million American participants in 2022, up 3% from 2019 but down 1.9% from 2021
2. TREADMILL — 53.6 million American participants, down 5.7% from 2019 and 0.1% from 2021
3. FREE WEIGHTS (dumbbells) — 53.1 million Americans participants, up 3.3% from 2019 and 1% from 2021
4. RUNNING/JOGGING — 47.8 million American participants, down 4.5% from 2019 and 2.4% from 2021
5. YOGA — 33.6 million American participants, up 10.4% from 2019 but down 2.1% from 2021