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Survey: Pilates Exploding, Darts & Billiards Plummeting

Henrik Sorensen | Stone | Getty Images

People might have watched Michael Phelps, but they weren't inspired enough to actually get in the pool.

Americans who said they participated in swimming declined by 8.4 percent from 19 million people in 2008 to 17.4 million people last year.

The statistic is one of many fascinating revelations detailed in the annual Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association’s Sports Fitness and Recreation Participation Overview, which came out this week.

Here are some of the other highlights worth noting.

  • The fastest growing activity in the country is Pilates. With 8.6 million Americans participating in ’09, it’s up 456 percent since 2000.
  • The activity most Americans participate in is walking (110 million) followed by bowling (57.3 million). Bowling participation is surprisingly up 10 percent in the last nine years.
  • Bar sports aren’t exactly stable. Only 20 million Americans said they played darts, down 14.6 percent from ’08. About 43 million Americans said they played billiards last year, down 12.3 percent from those that played just a year before.
  • At the gym, the elliptical machine is the star, as use has increased by 260 percent over the last nine years, while use of free weight dumbbells are up 30 percent since 2000.
  • On the decline? Over the last nine years, use of cross country ski machines is down 52.7 percent and stair climbing machines is down 14.3 percent.
  • Although basketball is the most popular team sport played (24 million people), don’t expect to find it at the gym. The SGMA study says that 57 percent of basketball games are now taking place in driveways or in parks.
  • Baseball is the third most popular team sport in the US, behind basketball and soccer, with 13.7 million players, but participation continues to fall. Almost 16 million people played the sport in 2000.
  • Last year’s star of the survey, Ultimate Frisbee, which had grown by 800,000 participants, steadied a bit this year as the number of people playing dropped to 4.4 percent, a 10 percent decrease from ’08.
  • Thanks to the UFC, viewing of mixed martial arts might be on the rise, but only 6.5 million Americans participated in the cross disciplined sport in 2009, down 3.8 percent from last year.
  • Pro boxing might have had a renaissance of sorts, but not from the standpoint of Average Joes getting involved. Boxing participation has plummeted 28.2 percent since 2000.
  • Lacrosse continues its impressive incline. In 2000, there were 518,000 lacrosse players. Today, that participation is up 131 percent to almost 1.2 million people.
  • Water sports are almost toxic. Since 2000, jet skiing (down 18.5 percent), scuba diving (36.7 percent) and water skiing (44.5 percent) have seen massive declines.
  • There are now 44 million runners in the US, up 6.7 percent vs. 2008.

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