Report Finds Many Americans Are Not Recreating Outdoors

February 19, 2020
Person kayaking

The Outdoor Foundation’s 2019 report contains unsettling information for park and recreation professionals. The heading of the report reads, “Half of the US population does not participate in outdoor recreation at all.”

The news does not improve even if we move our attention away from the half of the US population who does not recreate. The report also found that, “less than 20 percent of Americans recreated outside at least once a week…Of the people who report they go outside, 63 percent report they go outside within 10 miles of their home.” So, the Outdoor Foundation’s report provides evidence that most Americans do not recreate on a consistent basis. Of those who do, it is likely to be close to home. This information may not come as a surprise; though, it still stings those who have devoted their career to connect Americans with outdoor recreation.

The consequences from these behaviors are likely to affect many aspects of our society. One consideration is how the lack of outdoor recreation participation will affect the economy. Tourism and outdoor pursuits are a major economic contributor. Yet, “Americans went on one billion fewer outdoor outings in 2018 than they did in 2008.” The outdoor industry has likely suffered economic consequences as a result.

Another important consideration is how American’s lack of outdoor recreation will affect our nation’s youth. A surge of research efforts in the past couple of decades have argued about the importance of connecting youth with nature. Benefits from recreating outdoors has been linked to positive mental health outcomes, increased resiliency, and a slew of other human developmental outcomes.

This prompts the question, what should we do to get kids outside? John Meyer, outdoors reporter for the Denver post, covered a potential solution. Generation Wild, a three-year-old program, has invested $30 million across Colorado to get kids recreating outside.

Now, do not despair if you are not based in Colorado. The Generation Wild website has resources for parents, recreation practitioners, and agencies who want to gain new ideas on how to get kids outside!

Check out Generation Wild’s resources, the Outdoor Industry’s full 2019 Outdoor Participation Report and John Meyer’s coverage of this issue.