I love the great outdoors, enjoying mother nature and being adventurous. But the growth of eSports, proliferation of extreme GoPro videos and limitless online entertainment means many people rarely experience outdoor pursuits. In this article I take a look at outdoor vs online activities and ask, is the internet killing adventure sports?
In some ways it sounds like a silly question, as you can’t spend long browsing the web before seeing an extreme sport video. But, despite promoting adventure sports, for most people the feats in these videos are as unachievable as visiting the moon. So does this alienate them from taking up these outdoor activities in their more mundane forms?
Outdoor vs online activities
When I am talking about outdoor activities I mean pursuits such as hiking and biking, skiing and snowboarding, kayaking and climbing or sailing and surfing. Most of these activities can be as extreme as you want to make them, they certainly don’t have to be as dangerous as the videos by the pros.
So I wonder if instead of going outdoors people are taking up less risky online activities. Are they staying indoors and taking up eSports and gaming, online poker and casinos, or watching extreme sport videos and streaming live events?
In setting out to write outdoor vs online activities, my concern was that adventure activities in mother nature are directly declining as a result of more time being spent on the web. We all only have so much recreational time, so if we spend longer online it directly decreases time spent outdoors.
But I also feel that indirectly online activities can reduce the desire to get outdoors in two ways. Firstly, competitive online gaming, poker and casinos can deliver a similar adrenaline buzz to adventure sports. So people are getting their fix in the living room competing online rather than pushing their boundaries in the great outdoors.
Secondly, time spent viewing the many excellent extreme sport videos on the web makes outdoor activities seem unachievable and dangerous. This could be putting people off trying adventure sports altogether or making them feel that what they can do is dull and pointless in comparison.
My worry, is that ultimately the internet is killing adventure sports and that in a outdoor vs online activities battle the web is winning. As a father of two young boys I would like them to grow up with an adventurous spirit and an appreciation for the outdoors, so to find out more I have done some research.
Online activities: Statistics
I started by looking at eSports as they are considered a huge growth area. According to this article on the BBC, eSport audiences have grown by nearly 100 million between 2015 and 2016, and are set to double with an expected audience of 600 million by 2020. This will be around 8% of the global population.
Online Poker and Casinos are another large draw of time spent on the internet. Poker Stars have 21,000 players per day in the UK – which is nearly four times more than ski (based on 2 million skier days by British people per year). That is just one of many Poker sites, globally it is estimated that 100 million people regularly play Poker online.
YouTube is the undisputed king of online video. According to YouTube stats it has over a billion users and that every day hundreds of millions of hours of footage are watched generating billions of views. Adventure sport viewing is only a portion of this but if you search YouTube for ‘Extreme Sports’ there are over 23 million videos to choose from.
I haven’t even looked at social media, general web browsing and shopping on the internet – as I am not classing them as part of the same ‘recreational time’ pot we all have. Undoubtedly online activities are huge and growing, but does it stop people from doing outdoor activities and is the internet killing adventure sports?
Outdoor activities: Statistics
The impression that you get from the British media is that – both in the UK and globally – people are less active and spend less time outdoors than they used to. This paints a fairly grim impression for adventure sport participation.
However, from everything I have read it seems that adventure sport participation is not in decline. According to this Sport England report on outdoor participation, in the UK 24 million (58% of the adult population) enjoy the outdoors for health or exercise.
And that just under 9 million people regularly participate in outdoors activities including adventure sports, of which 2.5 million adults – nearly 6% of the population – do so each week. It also states that 1.7 million people participate in adventure sports on a weekly basis.
The report also says that participation in outdoor activities has stayed fairly level over time, but that there are signs of growth in adventure sports. For example the British Mountaineering Council has seen 2% annual membership increase, Snow Sports England has seen 12% growth in use of domestic slopes and outdoor activity gear sales has grown by 3%.
Is the internet killing adventure sports?
From the small sample of data I have looked for this outdoor vs online activities analysis, I have learnt three things. Firstly, online activities that could compete with time spent outdoors are growing. Secondly time outdoors – at least in the UK – is fairly static but not falling. And thirdly, adventure sport participation seems to be growing.
So to answer my original question ‘is the internet killing adventure sports?’ I’d have to say no it is not. Clearly a larger portion of population could be getting outdoors and doing adventure sports, but for those that already enjoy the outdoors, online activities are not eating into their time outside.
We hope you found this outdoor vs online activities analysis interesting. If you would like to get outside more often then check out our adventure sport discounts.