Sport Participation and physical activity Rates

The U.S. government produces limited data on sport participation and physical activity rates, and none on youth before high school age. In that void, the most robust data is generated through an annual household survey conducted by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), a Project Play partner that provides custom data on youth participation to the Aspen Institute.

The charts on this page are drawn from our latest report, State of Play: 2017, which offers the latest data. The report also highlights key developments from the previous year in each area of opportunity identified in our seminal report, Sport for All, Play for Life: A Playbook to Get Every Kid in the Game.

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Bottom line: In 2016, tennis, gymnastics, flag football, hockey, lacrosse and wrestling had slight participation increases. The largest decrease belonged to basketball, baseball and soccer — the three most popular youth sports. Note that some sports, like bicycling, saw a drop in percentage of kids participating but a rise in total number of kids participating. This is due to the effects of a baby boom that peaked in 2008; the population of children reaching the 6 to 12 age group has grown.

Bottom line: In 2016, tennis, gymnastics, flag football, hockey, lacrosse and wrestling had slight participation increases. The largest decrease belonged to basketball, baseball and soccer — the three most popular youth sports. Note that some sports, like bicycling, saw a drop in percentage of kids participating but a rise in total number of kids participating. This is due to the effects of a baby boom that peaked in 2008; the population of children reaching the 6 to 12 age group has grown.

Bottom Line: Household income is a major factor for kids 6 to 12 who play a team sport. In 2013, the gap between kids in households that earn less than $25,000 and those in $100,000-plus households was about 23 percentage points. That gap increased to 32 percentage points in 2016. Some positive news: The overall percentage of girls playing a team sport continues to improve, and the overall percentage of boys has held steady.

Bottom Line: Household income is a major factor for kids 6 to 12 who play a team sport. In 2013, the gap between kids in households that earn less than $25,000 and those in $100,000-plus households was about 23 percentage points. That gap increased to 32 percentage points in 2016. Some positive news: The overall percentage of girls playing a team sport continues to improve, and the overall percentage of boys has held steady.

Bottom Line: Money continues to be a major driver of sports participation. In 2016, 29.9 percent of kids from homes in the lowest income bracket ($25,000 or less) were physically inactive, compared to only 11.5 percent of children in the wealthiest households ($100,000 or more).

Bottom Line: Money continues to be a major driver of sports participation. In 2016, 29.9 percent of kids from homes in the lowest income bracket ($25,000 or less) were physically inactive, compared to only 11.5 percent of children in the wealthiest households ($100,000 or more).

Bottom Line: Only 24.8 percent of kids 6 to 12 were considered active to a healthy level in 2016, marking the steepest one-year decline on record dating to 2008. “Active to a Healthy Level” is defined as those engaging in high-calorie-burning activities a minimum of 151 times during the year

Bottom Line: Only 24.8 percent of kids 6 to 12 were considered active to a healthy level in 2016, marking the steepest one-year decline on record dating to 2008. “Active to a Healthy Level” is defined as those engaging in high-calorie-burning activities a minimum of 151 times during the year