Inactivity Pandemic Looms, Threatening Sports Industry

Mr Jim Baugh

Posted: August 6, 2014

With World Cup mania drawing to a close, the sports industry is at a crossroads. Will we capitalize on the residual enthusiasm or continue to stand by as consumers worldwide become more and more sedentary? In the United States, research shows the percentage of inactive or totally sedentary people increased from 25 per cent in 2007 to 28 per cent in 2012. This represents 10 million active Americans becoming “couch potatoes” in that five-year span. Perhaps most eye-opening, this number is projected to balloon to more than 31 per cent by 2018. For our industry, this will represent a painful $28 billion reduction in sports and fitness retail consumption for the United States alone. Globally, the situation is every bit as bleak. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 31 per cent of the adults worldwide aged 15 years or older are insufficiently active. This issue is even more striking when broken down by GDP, where in high-income countries the rate swells to 41 per cent of men and 48 per cent of women. Make no mistake – we are standing on the precipice of an inactivity epidemic that will rob our industry of billions of dollars over the next few years. As sports and fitness leaders, we have a responsibility to face facts and reverse the trends that threaten us. Research by the Physical Activity Council (PAC) indicates that people who are active to healthy standards spend three times as much on sports clothing, footwear and equipment as an inactive person. PAC also indicates fan conversion increases by as much as 100 per cent when sedentary Americans become active. These statistics reveal not only what is at stake as the inactivity pandemic continues, but also conveys the urgency of action required. PHIT America is a non-profit campaign launched in 2013 to encourage regular exercise and physical activity. In order to preserve the market as we know it and reverse the damage done by this inactivity snowball, the organization believes companies must begin to invest in programs and initiatives with two goals in mind: -Creating more individual sport programs focused on a fun and social experience for the average participant. -Working together to fight the inactivity pandemic converting “couch potatoes” into active and healthy consumers. At a time when more people are watching sports than ever before, it is our responsibility to come together and make fitness and healthy lifestyles a priority. We need to focus considerable effort and investment on making sports and fitness participation more relevant in the minds of consumers. PHIT America believes the best way to fight the inactivity pandemic is through education on the importance of staying active to improve the overall health of the country and significantly grow our customer base. We believe education truly is the key to reversing this pandemic. This March, PHIT America joined together with athlete and industry partners for the Sports Fitness Industry Association’s “National Health through Fitness Day” in Washington, D.C. During this day of lobbying, leaders met with Congressional Members to share the benefits of physical activity for individuals and the country, and to urge them to support the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. Once passed, the PHIT Act would allow Americans to use pre-tax dollars on fitness-related expenses, including everything from soccer cleats to gym memberships. This financial incentive encourages Americans of all ages to stay active. At a time when Congress does not agree on much, this piece of legislation boasts strong bi-partisan support – both parties agree this is good for America. PHIT America, together with more than 150 sponsors, is working to create a “Movement for a Fit and Healthy America” through a coordinated mix of education, advocacy and grassroots campaigns. Every company, organization, retailer, league and national governing body should be part of this cause and campaign. It is critical for everyone in this industry to work together to combat the inactivity epidemic head-on.

About Jim Baugh

Jim Baugh ( is a Sporting Goods Hall of Fame inductee and a 40-year industry veteran. In 2013, he founded PHIT America, a non-profit organization focused on overcoming the inactivity pandemic and creating a “Movement for a Fit & Healthy America.”