Research Outline

Adult Sports Participation and Spend


To identify the annual spend and time spent by adults who participate in team or individual sports (ideally the top 50 sports) in the United States to inform the development of a sports supplement. An ideal response will include:
  • Identification of top and/or trending adult sports
  • Annual spending on top adult sports
  • Annual time spent participating in top adult sports
  • Motivations/drivers for adult sports participation
  • Trends in adult sports participation
  • Sports may include endurance, adventure, action, and team/individual sports

Early Findings

Data Availability

  • Data ranking the top adult sports by spending or time invested is limited.
  • We were able to find data to address pieces of the question, but the information was very fragmented (i.e., exists in pockets, no cohesive summary list or ranking, various formats), included a mix of quantitative (e.g. survey or research study insights) and qualitative data (e.g., sports websites ranking participation based on consumer input, spending based on qualitative insights and personal experience), and leveraged a mix of recent and slightly older information.

Adult Sports Participation

  • Statista reports that 19.3% of adults participated in exercise each day in 2019.
  • The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) (an organization that tracks participation in 135 sports) 2021 topline report found that participation grew most for skateboarding (+34.2%), tennis (+22.4%), golf (+21.7%), pickleball (+21.3%), bicycling (+12.9%), basketball (+11.4%), and soccer (+4.5%) in 2020. The full report is available behind a paywall ($349) and can be found here.
  • The US Tennis Association (USTA) noted that tennis participation increased 22% in 2020, 3 million new players picked up a racket (+44%), and 4 million more people played tennis in 2020 than in 2019. Entry-level racquet sales are reported to have grown almost 40% in 2020.
  • Ranker suggests the top solo sports (by vote) include swimming, running, bicycling, climbing, skiing, surfing, snowboarding, archery, skateboarding, and mountain biking.
  • While not exclusively focused on the US and more qualitative in nature (with a website visitor bias), Topend Sports reports that the most popular endurance sports include orienteering, Triathalon, water polo, ultimate frisbee, swimming, ultra marathon, road cycling, squash, and boxing.
  • Top adventure sports include bungee jumping, dirt biking, mountain biking, parachuting, Parkour, rafting, rock climbing, scuba diving, and skiing.
  • An older (2015) study by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that adults report playing more than 50 types of sports, with the most popular among men being "golf, basketball, soccer, baseball/softball, football, and running or track" and the most popular among women being "running or track, baseball/softball, tennis, volleyball, and swimming."
  • An article from Florida News Times recommends team sports post-COVID for health and more limited investment, including soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, flag football, and ultimate frisbee.
  • The NPR study also found that sports participation is substantially higher among higher-income individuals. 37% of those with household incomes of $75,000 or more play sports, while 15% of lower-income ($25,000 annual income) play sports).
  • Some of the most expensive sports in the world include sailing, ski jumping, and pentathlon. Tennis, golf, and equestrian are also noted as relatively more expensive sports due to club fees and equipment costs.

Individual Sports Statistics

  • MyTriWorld reports the average annual cost of Triathlon participation is $2,900, with an initial year average of $700 and a second-year cost of $5,600 (which includes one-time purchases, such as bikes and wetsuits). Average age group triathletes spend 9-14 hours per week training for the sport.
  • The US Tennis Association (USTA) reported 9.67 million "core" tennis players in 2018, and total "core" equipment spending of $701.6 million ($72.55 per player in 2018). One player suggests that indoor tennis court rental could cost upwards of $1,000 per month ($12,000 annually) in colder and higher-cost areas of the country.
  • This 2017 article by suggests marathon training and racing may cost $5,000 (time frame not specified) including costs such as equipment, race fees, travel, and club memberships.
  • Mountain biking may cost between $700 to $1200 annually.
  • According to one industry-specific article, surfers may spend between $400 to over $1,000 for a surfboard, $125-$350 for a wetsuit, between $20 to $70 an hour for lessons, and $600 to $700 for additional gear (total cost over $2,000, depending on overall involvement).


  • Globally, outdoor fitness (running, hiking, walking, cycling, kayaking, biking, paddleboard) is a leading trend in 2021, with 59.1% of active adults reporting outdoor activities as a means to stay fit in 2021 (compared to 51.6% in 2020).
  • Solo fitness, including golf, outdoor cycling, and surfing (East and West coast), was also indicated as a trend in adult sports.


  • The NPR study reported the top two drivers of adult sports participation as personal enjoyment (55%) and health (23%).
  • 85% of adults claim that performance is important to them when they participate in adult sports, while "winning" was cited by 56% as an important factor for adults who participate in sports.


  • Our initial research focused on assessing information availability related to the business questions and providing some topline insights.
  • We were able to identify a number of sports that adults participate in, based on various surveys, sports-focused websites, and articles. There was no single cohesive ranking of top sports based on spending or time spent, though the SFIA survey appears to offer the best indication of trending adult sports (note: youth sports were also part of this survey, but some individual adult insights were provided and referenced in early research).
  • We were also able to identify some spending data for specific sports, though this was uncovered via a variety of sources (e.g., association websites, blogs, and sports-specific websites) and therefore was not necessarily available in a consistent format. Findings should be considered more directional.
  • There was some information on trends and drivers for adult sports in the public domain.
  • Some additional limitations included the need to leverage both newer and older insights (e.g., the NPR study from 2015 provided valuable and relevant insights as did the 2021 SFIA survey) and surveys that included a mix of adults and children. Data in the public domain appears to be more plentiful for youth sports participation compared to adults, though any information exclusive to youth sports was not included in this early research. In a few cases, sources extended to global insights (which were relevant to the US market as well).
  • Initial research indicates there may be additional quantitative or qualitative information available for the specific sports referenced in earlier research or other sports listed but not detailed in earlier research (e.g., skiing, basketball, swimming, rock climbing).
  • Further research will likely be reliant on a similarly diverse array of sources (quantitative insights when available, association websites, sports-specific websites, blogs, discussion boards, expert qualitative insights). The research will focus on the US and extend globally only when relevant.