Interest in aquatics appears to be on the rise,
according to an annual survey from the National Sporting
The closely watched survey found swimming was the No. 2
most popular sport activity in 2008. With 63.5 million
participants, it jumped 6.1 percent over 2007 —
the first time in the survey’s 25-year history
that swimming has shown more than a year-to-year
Since 1990, exercise walking has been the No. 1
activity. In 2008, swimming moved ahead of No. 3,
exercising with equipment, which had 63 million
Swimming is always among the top sport activities
surveyed, said Larry Weindruch, NSGA director of
communications. However, results from the past 25 years
shows a general decrease in participation.
“We started surveying swimming in 1984, and
that was the highest number of participants. We registered,
74.4 million that year,” Weindruch noted.
“2003 was the lowest, with 47
Experts say it’s too early to call it a bona
fide trend, but swimming participation is growing again.
Except for a drop in 2006, survey results show
participation has increased each year since 2003.
Bruce Wigo, CEO of the International Swimming Hall of
Fame in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is optimistic the increases
of the past several years will continue as the industry
develops more modern pools with amenities to accommodate
all types of people.
“I think we might be on the verge of a new
golden age of swimming,” he said.
Weindruch said that while it’s difficult to
explain year-to-year changes, one reason for the recent
upswing might be that aging baby boomers are looking for
healthy activities that don’t put a lot of stress
on joints and muscles.
The “staycation” trend and the focus
on Michael Phelps at the 2008 Summer Olympics also likely
spurred participation last year.
The NSGA survey, a written questionnaire, was conducted
by the Westbury, N.Y., office of
research firm IPSOS. It included approximately 10,000
households. Respondents were not asked how many times they
swam or whether they did so recreationally or