Adult Sports Eric Brown  

Only one out of every four adults who participated in sports as children are still doing so today.

Boston, Massachusetts (USA) – Almost three in four individuals (73 percent) participated in sports as children, but only one in four (25 percent) do so now as adults, according to a new poll from NPR/Robert Wood Johnson Foundation/Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

However, parents continue to encourage their children to participate in sports, despite the drop in interest. Over eighty-nine percent of parents with middle or high school children feel that their child has benefited greatly or somewhat by engaging in sports.

Adults who participated in sports as children are more likely than not to continue doing so as adults, according to 72% of parents who have a kid who engages in sports. Parents of high school students who participate in sports have a 26 percent chance of their son or daughter becoming a professional athlete.

More than eight out of ten parents whose children participate in middle or high school athletics feel their children benefit greatly or quite a bit in their physical health (88 percent) and in their ability to learn about discipline or dedication (81 percent) (81 percent ). More than seven out of ten parents believe that their child’s participation in sports has a significant or significant impact on their child’s interpersonal skills and mental health (73 percent ). Almost two-thirds of parents say that their child’s participation in sports helps them in school (56 percent) and prepares them for a future job (55 percent )

“Sports are essential to the well-being of a neighborhood. According to a recent poll, keeping adults engaged in sports is just as vital as encouraging children to participate in physical activity. A healthy weight, acceptance, and collaboration are some lessons that children and adults can learn by participating in these programs, says Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, President and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The vast majority of persons who participate in sports report that it has benefited their health.

Over half (58%) of persons who participate in sports report that it has lowered their stress (54%) or improved their mental health (54%) significantly or quite a bit.

Sport technique is a significant consideration for adult athletes. Winning is essential to 56 percent of individuals who play sports, while 85 percent of those who play fools believe that their performance is important to them.

Among women and the elderly, participation in sports is less common.

More than a quarter of American adults regularly participate in some form of physical activity (25 percent). There are more than 50 different sports that adults report experiencing regularly. Adults participate in sports at a far higher rate than children. A whopping 35% of men versus 16% of women say they participate in sports.

Golf, basketball, soccer, football are among the most popular sportsmen play. Running, track, baseball/softball, tennis, volleyball, and swimming are the five most popular sports for females.

Adults exercise for a variety of health-related reasons today.

As many as 48 percent of people say they engage in strenuous or moderate-intensity physical activity daily. To enhance health, remain in shape, or lose weight, the vast majority of persons who exercise (71 percent) report doing so for these reasons. When it comes to wealth and education, adults who exercise are more likely to be younger than those who don’t.

Even though sports and exercise have been shown to improve health, more than four in ten Americans haven’t been active for a year or longer said, Blendon.

Nearly four out of five lower-income parents expect that their child will one day become a professional athlete.

Despite the daunting odds, more than a third of parents with salaries under $50,000 a year (39 percent) say they hope their child will become a professional athlete. Only 20% of parents making $50,000 or more a year had this belief.

There are twice as many parents who have financial difficulties with their children’s sports as those who have more money. Sporting activities can be expensive for families with incomes below $50,000 per year, but only one in six parents with incomes over that amount (16 percent) feel the same thing.

Check out an NPR/RWJF/HCS webcast that aired in July 2015. You can discover more about the event, watch the live broadcast, and get the on-demand recording at this link when it is released. NPR will also run a summer-long series starting on June 15, 2015.)

Check out the full poll results and related charts.


Harvard Opinion Research Program (HARP) researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health to develop this poll as part of an ongoing series of surveys. Each institution’s research team consists of the following members:

Communication and Marketing: Fred Mann, Vice President; Carolyn Miller, Senior Program Officer;  for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The Science Desk’s Anne Gudenkauf and Joe Neel join NPR’s Morning Edition to discuss their work.

Between January 29 and March 8, 2015, SSRS of Media (PA) interviewed 2,506 adults (18 years of age or older) using random-digit-dialing on the phone (including landlines and cell phones). In both English and Spanish, the interviews were conducted.

At a 95 percent confidence level, the overall sample error is +/- 2.7 percentage points. One oversample includes adults who said they played or participated in any sport 

. Another oversample has junior high, middle, or high school students (604 interviews, margin of error +/- 5.2 percentage points). Overall, these two categories were weighted according to their actual share of the population.

Non-response bias, as well as question-wording and ordering effects, may contribute to non-sampling error. Since participation in telephone surveys varies among different demographic groups, non-response can lead to recognized biases in survey estimates. 

Random-digit dialing, subsample replication, and systematic respondent selection within homes are just a few methods used to guarantee the sample is representative of the entire population.