The 10 Most Popular Sports in the World By Participation

Most Popular Sports in the World By Participation

Sports are one of the great unifiers in the world, something that everyone loves and can get behind. But not all sports are created equal, and even though your local stadium might be packed with fans on game day, that doesn’t mean that everyone around the world is going to love it as much as you do. The following list of the Most Popular Sports in the World by Participation might surprise you, though—it includes sports from countries all over the globe, and if you think you know which one comes out on top, you might want to take another look at the numbers.

1) Soccer

Soccer is a beautiful game, and if we’re being honest, pretty much everyone loves to play it. It also ranks as one of the most popular sports on Earth. So it should come as no surprise that soccer is by far the most popular sport in terms of participation—whether you’re talking about kids or adults. More than 250 million men and women play soccer worldwide each year, which makes up roughly 5% of humanity.

2) Tennis

Let’s get one thing out of the way: You don’t have to be an athlete to play tennis. In fact, it is one of the Most Popular Sports in the World by Participation and doesn’t require any kind of special physical conditioning or expensive equipment (save for a racket and shoes). Tennis is ideal for individuals looking to get into shape, as well as for young kids who might not be ready to handle a more strenuous sport. Children can learn at their own pace and have fun while doing so. For adults, hitting a few backhands with friends on a Saturday afternoon will help you relax after a stressful week at work, plus all that fresh air gives you even more energy for your nighttime activities.

3) Volleyball

In terms of participation, volleyball is thought to be one of the most popular sports on Earth. According to a 2013 report by International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), there are currently more than 40 million registered players globally and that figure is growing. The United States has roughly half a million participants, while Italy has more than 850,000. Other countries with an abundance of volleyball enthusiasts include Brazil and China.

4) Basketball

Though not necessarily thought of as a global sport, basketball is by far and away from the most popular sport across all demographics. Basketball’s popularity makes sense considering it’s easily accessible and beginner-friendly–but it’s also popular with high-level players. In fact, there are 34 countries where basketball is among their country’s most played sports by participation. So if you’re looking for something to play on a global level (or just somewhere fun to shoot hoops), basketball might be right up your alley. Just make sure you have enough space to maneuver and don’t forget protective equipment!

5) Athletics

It’s often cited as one of the Most Popular Sports in the World by Participation. According to a survey conducted by researchers at Sport & Markt, only 35 percent of American adults said they hadn’t played any team sports at some point, while 83 percent indicated they had participated in athletics at least once. Although it has lost a lot of ground to other spectator-oriented sports like football and basketball over time, there are still an estimated 26 million people (young and old) who take part in track & field activities on a regular basis.

6) Badminton

Badminton may not be a sport that many Americans participate in, but it’s actually one of the Most Popular Sports in the World by Participation. A great number of people worldwide play badminton—perhaps because it only requires a small space and simple equipment. So if you’re looking for an activity you can enjoy with your friends or family, give badminton a try! And if you’re wondering which countries play badminton most often, check out our infographic on The Top Badminton Countries to see where it stacks up on a global scale. While North America dominates when it comes to gold medals at major tournaments (especially now that China has banned its top players from competing), India leads when it comes to overall participation.

7) Table Tennis

Over 300 million people around the world play table tennis—that’s nearly 1% of Earth’s population. It’s particularly popular in Asia, where over 90% of Chinese residents regularly play. In China alone, over four million people are active players, and another 50 to 100 million people play recreationally.

8) Baseball/Softball

According to a 2015 Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association survey, baseball/softball was America’s most popular sport, with more than 24 million players. Although it is often thought of as an American pastime, baseball’s origins actually lie in England and its importance there dates back to the 15th century. The modern form of baseball began with Alexander Cartwright who developed a set of rules for the game called Knickerbocker Rules in 1845. The first game of modern baseball was played at Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, on June 19 that year between two nines assembled by Cartwright. Baseball became known as America’s favorite pastime following a tour by Major League Baseball stars around Britain and Ireland after they had finished their season back home.

9) Swimming

In more than 200 countries, people swim for fun, fitness, and health. Swimming is an affordable way to keep your whole body fit. According to research from Harvard Medical School, swimming can help improve cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure and strengthen bones. Although people of all ages can enjoy swimming, you’ll need special training to become a competitive swimmer. Swimming competitions are popular events at local and international levels. Some take place in pools, while others happen in open water like oceans or lakes.

10) Golf

Golf is a sport where a player must use his or her skills to hit a ball into a series of holes on a course. There are many different types of golf games, including practical, match play, and even putt-putt. Golf is played by more than 1 billion people worldwide and has been ranked as one of America’s favorite sports for several years running. This high level of participation makes it one of the Most Popular Sports in the World by Participation. For example, over 30 million rounds were played at participating facilities across the United States in 2012 alone! That’s higher than all other competitive sports combined!

By Awais

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