An annual analysis by the Outdoor Foundation found that 48.6 percent of the public, or nearly 138 million people, took part in outdoor activities in 2010. That number is up 100,000 from a year earlier, the report revealed.
Also good news, more young people took part in outdoor activities in 2010 than a year earlier, indicating efforts to get pre-teens and teens outdoors are paying off. The upswing included less-served populations of girls, African-Americans and Hispanics, the report found.
Friends and family were the biggest influences in getting young people outdoors followed by a desire to try something new, and staying fit.
In the five-year history of the reports, outdoor participation has declined with age. In ages 6 to 12, 62 percent took part in 2010, compared to 38 percent of people aged 45 and older.
Most outdoor participants are white males.
But females make up a significant portion, 44 percent. Percentages rise with income and most have at least some college.
At 54 percent, the west-north-central Illinois region had the second-highest percentage of outdoor participation in the country. The Mountain region had the most at 58 percent.
The largest number of participants took part in running and jogging, 49 million, and trail running, 50 million.
The biggest percentage increase in participation was 64 percent, seen in traditional triathlons held on roads (as opposed to triathlons held off-road and on trails.) Nearly 2 million people competed in the sport, compared to 1.2 million the year earlier.
Boardsailing and windsurfing showed the second-largest percentage increase in participation at 43 percent.
Non-traditional triathlon held off-road saw the third-largest percentage increase at 39 percent.
Other big rises were seen in kayaking, 35 percent; BMX bicycling, 31 percent; and adventure racing, 23 percent. Scuba diving rose 16 percent; running and jogging rose 13 percent and trail running rose 12 percent.
More first-time participants took part in stand-up paddling, followed by triathlon, both traditional and non-traditional/off-road; boardsailing/windsurfing; kayaking; climbing; surfing; adventure racing and scuba diving.
Judged by how often people take part in their activities, running/jogging is the most popular, with 88 average outings per year, followed by biking, with an average of 58 outings per year; skateboarding, with an average of 52 outings annually; bird watching, at 40 outings; and training for triathlon, 35 outings.
Outdoor participation has positive side benefits.
Outdoor participants rate their fitness levels 24 percent higher than those who are not outdoor participants, and their health level 15 percent higher.
The study also found people tend to take part more in outdoor activities if their towns have walking and biking routes.
Registration for both the Tri-Shark Triathlon June 2 and Evergreen Lake Triathlon July 14 will begin Dec. 1 at www.tri-shark.org. Both events take place at McLean County Comlara Park, near Hudson.