If running and yoga were competing in a popularity contest, and in a way they are, the clear winner would be yoga.

Over the past four years, 16 million Americans have taken up yoga while two million Americans have quit running footraces.

Yoga’s explosive growth ranges across all age groups but is driven by women.  Nearly 20% of participants are 18 to 29, 43% are 30 to 49, and 38% are 50 or older.  Seventy-two percent are women.

These figures are reported in the 2016 Yoga in America Study conducted by Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance.  The study says 38 million Americans practice yoga, up from 20 million in 2012.

Meanwhile, running is losing popularity, particularly among millennials, 18 to 34, according to a study funded by the industry itself.  Between 2013 and 2015, about two-and-half million young people quit running on a consistent basis, a drop of about 20%.  And that drop could be ominous, because Millennials have overtaken baby boomers as the nation’s largest generation.

Equally interesting is WHO is upping their running mileage.  The answer: Americans 45 and up.  In the last two years, frequent runners aged 45 to 64 increased 2%.  And those 65 and older increased a whopping 25%.

These trends translate into dollars and cents.  Running shoes alone is a 7-billion dollar industry.  Add in accessories like watches, apps, apparel and race fees, and you have some serious money at stake.  Yoga is exploding in growth.  Classes, gear and equipment has grown, over the past four years, from a 10 billion-dollar industry to 16-billion today.

Why is all this happening?  Running advocates, like industry official Rich Harshbarger, quoted in the Wall Street Journal, says running costs have impacted millennials and once they earn more they will return to the sport.  Meanwhile, they and lots of other Americans are turning to yoga, which its advocates say offers “stress relief, flexibility and overall well-being.”

My take?  Running first gained popularity in the 1970’s and for the most part it has thrived.  Yoga is exploding like running did 45 years ago.  Let’s see if it can maintain its long-term attraction for Americans — like running has.

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