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Social Generation Y leading to uptick in fitness, yoga

An uptick in participation of yoga and aerobic fitness might be attributed to Generation Y and its emphasis on social networking.

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Yoga continues to win the hearts, bodies and minds of the population, according to the latest National Sporting Goods Association Sports Participation survey.

The mind-body activity grew 28.1 percent to 20.2 million participants in 2010, after a small decline between 2008 and 2009. Overall, since 2007 yoga has grown from 10.7 to 20.2 million participants, and there’s little reason to think that will slow.

Yoga is growing alongside other sport and fitness activities, particulary among younger particpants — spelling a bright future.

Another recent survey, this one by the Sporting Goods Manufacturer’s Association, shows social networking has had an impact on the uptick in sports participation among people born between 1980 and 1999 (Generation Y).

Dan Kasen, the NSGA’s director of research and information services, said this bit of information could be the reason why yoga’s popularity has grown.

“If someone finds and interest in a sport and it appeals to them, they’re going to spread the word,” Kasen said. “Yoga happens to be one of those sports where they are a lot of good benefits so the word spreads rapidly about it.”

Kasen also said this popularity could be because it’s a workout that offers a variety of options for people of all ages.

“It has a lot of attributes that would appeal to many people – especially women,” Kasen said.

The SGMA survey said Generation Y is more social than other generations and they enjoy working out with acquaintances.

Mike May, director of communications for the SGMA, said social networking encompassed both in-person socialization and online socialization on sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“There’s an awareness that’s generated through social networking,” Kasen said. “Yoga has been around for a long time but people are now becoming more aware of it.”

“It’s just the way Generation Y is communicating these days,” May said. “They create their own family of friends.”

He also said people posting workout summaries on social networking sites might be motivating friends to get physical. The SGMA did not address any growth in yoga participation specifically and the activity wasn’t listed as one of its top 10 sports and fitness activities.

According to SGMA, however, 51.3 million members of Generation Y are involved in a fitness-oriented activity. NSGA did not have a total number of people involved in fitness-oriented activities because its survey participants had the option to choose multiple sports.

The SGMA survey noted health club memberships and group fitness classes are both increasing in popularity. For example, since 2009 group cycling is up 29.9 percent; cardio tennis, 27.7 percent; and high-impact aerobics, 19.6 percent.

The NSGA survey echoed this, noting that there was a 16.3-percent increase in people who participated in aerobic exercise (which was defined the survey participant), and a 10.3-percent increase in people who participated in running or jogging. Results also showed there was a 4-percent increase in people working out at health clubs since 2006.

“Aerobic exercise would be what the participant perceives it to be,” Kasen explained. The activities vary from aerobic exercise classes to jumping jacks.

The SGMA survey, which measured overall participation figures for 119 sports in 14 different categories since 2009,concludes that treadmills are still the preferred form of exercise for many people who participated in its online survey.

There have been some increases on the outdoor front, according to the NSGA survey results, which included data on people age 7 and older who participated more than once a year in one or more of in 47 sports. Hiking and kayaking have both increased in popularity. Hiking saw a 10.9-percent increase to 37.7 million participants.

“There have always been a lot of participants in hiking,” Kasen said. “We can look at hiking over the years, and it’s just come back and it wasn’t down that much.”

Kasen said the survey results are helpful to retailers to project what products might sell well.

–Ana Trujillo