According to the Outdoor Foundation Outdoor Participation Trend Report 2022 More than half (54 percent) of Americans ages six and older participated in at least one outdoor activity in 2021, and the number of outdoor recreational participants increased 2.2 percent in 2021 to 164.2 million participants. The number didn’t fundamentally change the long-term decline in high-frequency, or “core,” outdoor participation.
“We know that spending time outdoors brings many benefits to individuals and society, including improved mental and physical health, job creation and economic growth, and increased stewardship of our land and waters,” said Kent Ebersole, Interim Managing Director of OIA. “While the historic growth we are seeing in this report is encouraging, we must continue to take action to help more individuals and families form lifelong relationships with nature so that our communities, the environment and our businesses continue to thrive.”
Other important findings are:
- The number of outdoor leisure participants has grown again in 2021. The number of outdoor participants has increased by 6.9 percent since the pandemic began in early 2020.
- Youth participation is increasing, but participation rates have declined.
- New outdoor participants are more diverse than the overall outdoor participant base, not only by ethnicity but also by age group.
- High frequency or “core” participation in outdoor recreational activities has decreased. The “core” participant in outdoor leisure activities, defined as someone who has participated in outdoor leisure activities 51 times or more in the past 12 months, has increased from 71.9 percent in 2007 to 58.7 percent of the annual participant base declined in 2021. The number of core participants has increased from 99.5 million in 2007 to 96.4 million today.
- The number of participants aged 55 and over has increased by more than 14 percent since 2019. Older participants aged 65 and over were the fastest growing age category, with a 16.9 percent growth since the start of the COVID pandemic in early 2020.
- Despite the increasing number of participants, the number of outdoor excursions is clearly declining. The number of excursions has declined over the past decade, and the increased number of participants cannot stem the tide.
“The data in this year’s report underscores the important need to continue to support efforts that help create repeating and reinforcing outdoor experiences for youth and families,” said Stephanie Maez, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation. “Cross-industry collaboration and through philanthropy, outdoor programs and public policy can move the needle on these issues. The Outdoor Foundation will continue its mission to catalyze collective action to break down barriers of justice and help make the outdoors accessible to all.”
The Outdoor Foundation has been producing the Outdoor Participation Trends Report for 15 years. The annual report examines the demographic of the outdoor participant – defined as someone who has participated in an outdoor activity at least once in the past year. The survey reflects data collected in calendar year 2021, which yielded a total of 18,000 online interviews with people aged six and older.
The Outdoor Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA).