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Outdoor Recreation in Decline

Half of the US population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all

Information and Study provided by the Outdoor Foundation

The Outdoor Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Outdoor Industry Association (OIA), released the latest Outdoor Participation Report, showing about half the U.S. population participated in outdoor recreation at least once in 2018, including hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, canoeing and biking among many more outdoor activities. Unfortunately, the report highlights an alarming trend that just under half the U.S. population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all.

The report also highlighted the following troubling trends:

•Less than 20 percent of Americans recreated outside at least once a week. •Americans went on one billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 than they did in 2008. •Kids went on 15 percent fewer annual outings in 2018 than they did in 2012.

Additionally, the report shows a continued gap between the diversity of outdoor participants and the diversity of the U.S. population, specifically where non-Caucasian ethnic groups reported going on far fewer outings in 2018 than they did just five years ago.

Interestingly, there is a strong trend toward close-to-home recreation. The report indicates that of the people who report they participate in outdoor activity, 63 percent report they go outside within 10 miles of their home. Some bright spots from the report showed that female outdoor participation increased by an average of 1.7 percent over the last three years and Hispanic participation in the outdoors was the strongest among ethnic groups.

“We know from study after study that recreating outside, even at minimal levels, greatly benefits an individual’s physical and mental health and also increases academic outcomes and community connections. But unfortunately, the barriers to getting outside are greater for Americans living in cities or in areas with fewer transportation options,” said Lise Aangeenbrug, executive director at Outdoor Foundation. “This is why Outdoor Foundation, along with OIA and other like-minded organizations, is working to reach new populations of Americans who don’t get outdoors often or at all or don’t see themselves in the outdoors and encouraging them to get – and thrive – outside.”

OIA and its member companies have been concerned about the growing trends and gaps in outdoor recreation for some time, and the report confirmed those worries. That is why OIA and Outdoor Foundation have committed to getting all of America outside more often through a two-pronged approach that includes community-based initiatives and local, state and federal policy work.

“At REI Co-op, we’re in the business of unlocking transformational outdoor experiences – whether those happen on a backcountry ski run, or on a walk to your neighborhood park,” says Ben Steele, OIA member company REI Co-op’s executive vice president and chief customer officer. “No outdoor activity is too small, and we should be celebrating the myriad ways to get outside as we welcome more people to a life outdoors.”

In 2019, Outdoor Foundation shifted its focus to underserved communities and now provides larger multi-year grants to build lasting change at the community level. Outdoor Foundation Thrive Outside Community grants bring together partners such as The Trust for Public Land, community organizations, environmental organizations, YMCA, Boys & Girls Club and local leaders in Oklahoma City, Atlanta, San Diego and Grand Rapids.

“The best chance for us to get more people outdoors, connecting to nature and each other, is for all of us to work together,” said Shanelle Smith Whigham, Ohio state director for The Trust for Public Land. “The Trust for Public Land is seeing this take root in places we work across the country, as some of the top businesses, non-profit and government is meeting communities where they are to provide access to meaningful outdoor experiences. It’s how we make change, and it makes a world of difference.”

“At a time when Americans are experiencing an epidemic of chronic disease, it’s troubling to know that nearly half do not engage in outdoor recreation at all – something we know helps improve overall quality of life,” said Patricia Rojas-Ungar, vice president of government affairs at Outdoor Industry Association. “This trend is particularly prevalent in communities of color and among children, which is why OIA is making it our mission to work to break down barriers to the outdoors so that people can experience the positive benefits outdoor activities can provide.”

Outdoor Foundation has developed the Outdoor Participation Report for over 10 years. The survey reflects data gathered during the 2018 calendar year and garnered a total of 20,069 online interviews consisting of people ages six and older.

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