Today's young hikers, campers, climbers and paddlers are tomorrow's adult outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists, but sadly fewer and fewer youth are heading outdoors each year. In recent decades — amidst changing technological and social landscapes — the American childhood has rapidly moved indoors, leading to epidemic levels of childhood obesity and inactivity.
The United States is now facing an unprecedented public health and conservation problem. Reconnecting youth with the outdoors has become critical to the health of future generations and the health of our natural landscapes. Our children are desperate for the physical, mental and social benefits of a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle, and our natural landscapes need the support and protection of individuals with a strong connection to the outdoors.
In this Special Report on Youth, The Outdoor Foundation examines youth participation in outdoor recreation — profiling the extent and quality of participation among ages 6 to 24. With the vital new information detailed within, it seeks to provide youth organizations, public agencies, businesses and non-profits with insights needed to get youth outside.
Based on the largest national survey of American participation in outdoor recreation, the report dives deep into youth participation in outdoor activities — from detailing the demographics of youth outdoor participation to examining the motivations of participants and non-participants.
A few of the key findings in this report include:
- Total Participation — Nearly 60 percent of American youth ages 6 to 24 participate in outdoor recreation. In recent years, participation has fallen each year.
- Frequency of Participation — American youth made an estimated 4.26 billion outdoor excursions in 2008.
- Gender Disparities — Males of all ages participate at a higher rate than females. 56 percent of youth outdoor participants ages 6 to 24 are male.
- Ethnic Participation — Minority populations are underrepresented in outdoor recreation. 79 percent of youth outdoor participants are Caucasian.
- Top Activities — Running, bicycling, fishing, camping and hiking are the most popular outdoor activities among youth.
- Youngest Activities — Skateboarding, BMX bicycling, snowboarding, climbing and triathlon have the highest percentage of youth participants and lowest percentage of adults.
- Motivations — Parents, friends and family introduce the most youth to the outdoors. Most youth enjoy the fun, relaxation and exercise of outdoor activities most.
- Barriers — A lack of interest and a lack of time are the top barriers keeping youth non-participants in outdoor recreation indoors.
- Adults with Children in Their Household -— Adults 18 and older with children, ages 1 to 17, in their household participate in outdoor recreation at higher levels than adults without children in their household.
File: Full Report
File Type: PDF
File Size: 1.8 MB