Greetings, outdoor sports aficionados!
Are you craving some adrenaline-pumping action under the open sky?
Embark on an exhilarating journey with our comprehensive list of outdoor sports, sorted by popularity.
From mountain conquering climbers to unstoppable trail runners, there’s an activity for every adventure seeker out there!
Outdoor Sports List
- American Football
- Beach Volleyball
- Track and Field
Table of Contents
Soccer, also known as football, traces its origins to various ancient cultures, with the modern version developing in England in the mid-19th century.
The game is now immensely popular worldwide, with top leagues such as the English Premier League, La Liga in Spain, and Serie A in Italy attracting millions of fans.
The FIFA World Cup, held every four years, is the most prominent soccer tournament. Soccer has been part of the Olympic program since 1900 for men and 1996 for women.
Dr. James Naismith, a Canadian physical education instructor, invented basketball in Massachusetts in 1891. Initially played with a soccer ball and peach baskets, the sport rapidly gained popularity in the United States and globally.
The NBA in the USA and EuroLeague in Europe are top professional leagues. Basketball became an Olympic sport in 1936 and has been a mainstay in the Summer Games since.
Tennis has its roots in 12th-century France, where it was played with bare hands and called “jeu de paume.” The modern version of tennis emerged in England in the late 19th century.
The sport is popular worldwide, with major tournaments known as Grand Slams, including Wimbledon, the US Open, Australian Open, and French Open. Tennis was reintroduced into the Olympic program in 1988 after a 64-year hiatus.
Baseball’s origins can be traced back to various bat-and-ball games from England, with the modern form developing in the United States in the 19th century.
Baseball is popular in North America, Latin America, and Asia, with Major League Baseball (MLB) being the premier professional league.
The sport was part of the Olympic program, making appearances between 1992 and 2008, before returning for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
#5 American Football
American football, a descendant of rugby and soccer, emerged in the late 19th century in the United States. The sport is most popular in the US, with the powerful National Football League (NFL) being its top competition.
American football has not been included in the Olympic Games, but the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) organizes the World Championship every four years.
Golf’s origins can be traced to 15th-century Scotland, where the modern version of the game was developed. Now played in over 200 countries, the sport attracts a global following.
Major golf tournaments include the Masters, US Open, British Open, and PGA Championship. Golf has been part of the Olympic program since the 1900 Paris Games, with a 112-year absence before returning in the 2016 Rio Games.
#7 Beach Volleyball
Beach volleyball, a variation of indoor volleyball, was first played in 1920s Santa Monica, California. The sport gained popularity on sunny beaches worldwide and eventually evolved into a competitive discipline.
The FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour is the top international circuit. Beach volleyball made its Olympic debut at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Rugby, named after the Rugby School in England where the game was first played in the early 19th century, is a full-contact team sport played in various forms.
The two main types are Rugby Union and Rugby League, both enjoying popularity across the globe, particularly in Europe, Oceania, and South Africa. Rugby returned to the Olympic program in 2016 with the Rugby Sevens format.
Cricket, a bat-and-ball game, has its origins in 16th-century England. The sport is now popular in countries that were once part of the British Empire, such as India, Pakistan, Australia, Sri Lanka, and the Caribbean
. The International Cricket Council (ICC) organizes major events such as the Cricket World Cup and the ICC World Twenty20. Cricket has not been part of the Olympic program since 1900.
#10 Track and Field
Track and Field, also known as athletics, is an ancient sport with roots in the original Olympic Games in ancient Greece. The modern sport encompasses various disciplines, such as running, jumping, and throwing events.
The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) governs the sport, with the World Athletics Championships held every two years. Athletics is a central part of the Olympic program and has been since the first modern Games in 1896.
More Outdoor Sports
- Ultimate Frisbee: Ultimate, originally known as ultimate frisbee, was created in 1968 in New Jersey, USA. This non-contact team sport, played using a flying disc, is popular in North America and Europe. The World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) governs the sport, organizing events like the World Ultimate Club Championships. Ultimate has not yet been included in the Olympic program.
- Skateboarding: Skateboarding emerged in the 1950s in California, USA, as a pastime for surfers. Today, it is a popular global sport, and skate parks can be found in many countries. The Street League Skateboarding (SLS) World Tour is a prestigious professional series. Skateboarding made its Olympic debut in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
- Cycling: Cycling has various forms, such as road cycling, track cycling, and mountain biking, which have roots in 19th-century Europe. The sport is popular worldwide, with events like the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia, and Vuelta a España drawing massive audiences. Cycling has been an Olympic mainstay since the inaugural modern Games in 1896.
- Surfing: Surfing originated in ancient Polynesian culture, particularly in Hawaii, where it was a central part of society. Today, the sport is popular in countries with coastlines offering great wave conditions, like the USA, Australia, and Brazil. The World Surf League (WSL) holds the annual Championship Tour, and surfing made its Olympic debut in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
- Rock Climbing: Rock climbing likely began as a necessity for ancient people but has since become a popular recreational and competitive sport. Indoor climbing gyms have increased the sport’s accessibility. The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) governs the sport, holding the Climbing World Championships, and climbing made its Olympic debut in the 2020 Tokyo Games.
- Swimming: Swimming, with early evidence dating back to the Stone Age, has a long history. The sport is popular worldwide, and the International Swimming Federation (FINA) governs the various disciplines. Swimming events have been part of the Olympic program since 1896 and have expanded over the years to include numerous events.
- Kayaking: Kayaking, where participants propel themselves in a small, narrow boat called a kayak using a double-bladed paddle, is practiced in rivers, lakes, and coastal areas. The versatile water sport has various types, including whitewater, sea, and recreational. Kayaking has been an Olympic sport since 1936.
- Canoeing: Similar to kayaking, canoeing involves paddling in a small boat called a canoe while using a single-bladed paddle. The sport is popular on calm lakes, rivers, and coastal areas for both recreational and competitive purposes. Canoeing has been an Olympic sport since the 1936 Berlin Games.
- Snowboarding: Snowboarding, created in the late 1960s in the United States as a hybrid of skiing and skateboarding, is popular in mountainous regions worldwide. The International Ski Federation (FIS) governs the sport. Snowboarding became an Olympic sport in 1998, with events like halfpipe, slopestyle, and parallel giant slalom.
- Skiing: Skiing, likely originating in prehistoric Scandinavia, has various disciplines such as alpine, cross-country, and freestyle skiing. The sport is popular in colder climates with mountain ranges, and the International Ski Federation (FIS) governs all aspects. Skiing has been part of the Winter Olympics since the first Winter Games in 1924.
- Ice Hockey: Originating in Canada in the 19th century, Ice Hockey has since become a global phenomenon, particularly popular in North America, Russia, and the Scandinavian countries. The International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) oversees the sport, and key tournaments include the IIHF World Championships and the Olympic Games. Ice Hockey has been part of the Winter Olympics since 1924.
- Lacrosse: Lacrosse is a team sport rooted in the Native American communities, specifically the Iroquois people, dating back to as early as the 12th century. Now popular in the United States and Canada, it is governed by World Lacrosse. Major competitions include the World Lacrosse Championship. It is not an Olympic sport.
- Badminton: Originating from a game called battledore and shuttlecock, modern Badminton was developed in England during the 19th century. The sport enjoys wide popularity, especially in Asia and Europe. The Badminton World Federation (BWF) governs the sport, and top tournaments include the BWF World Championships and the Olympic Games. Badminton became an Olympic sport in 1992.
- Pickleball: Pickleball, a racquet sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis, was created in the United States in the mid-20th century. While it’s popular primarily in North America, its popularity is growing globally. The USA Pickleball Association is the sport’s national governing body. It’s not currently included in the Olympic Games.
- Horseback Riding: Also known as Equestrianism, Horseback Riding is a diverse sport with origins dating back to antiquity. Today, it’s popular worldwide, with the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) overseeing its many forms, including dressage, jumping, and eventing. Major tournaments include the FEI World Equestrian Games and the Olympic Games.
- Hiking: Hiking is a recreational activity that involves long, vigorous walks on trails or footpaths in the countryside. Originating from walking for pleasure, which began in the 18th century, it’s popular globally, though not competitive in nature, hence no governing body or tournaments. Its benefits include exercise, nature appreciation, and stress relief.
- Mountain Biking: Mountain biking emerged in the late 20th century in California and has since gained popularity worldwide. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) governs the sport, with major competitions including the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships and the Olympic Games. Mountain biking was included in the Summer Olympics in 1996.
- Disc Golf: Disc Golf originated in the 20th century in the United States, and it involves throwing a disc at a target. Governed by the Professional Disc Golf Association, it’s gaining popularity globally. The PDGA Professional Disc Golf World Championships is one of the sport’s major competitions. Disc golf is not currently an Olympic sport.
- Rowing: Rowing as a competitive sport can trace its roots back to the ancient Egyptians, but modern rowing as we know it was formed in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is popular in Europe, North America, and Australia. The International Rowing Federation (FISA) governs the sport, and top tournaments include the World Rowing Championships and the Olympic Games. It’s been an Olympic sport since 1900.
- Sailing: Sailing for sport originated in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Today, it’s popular globally, especially in coastal countries. The International Sailing Federation (World Sailing) governs the sport, and top competitions include the Sailing World Championships and the Olympic Games. Sailing has been an Olympic sport since the inaugural games in 1896.
- Kitesurfing: Kitesurfing, a water sport that combines elements of surfing, paragliding, and windsurfing, emerged in the late 20th century. It’s growing in popularity worldwide, especially in coastal areas. The International Kiteboarding Association governs the sport. While it’s not an Olympic sport, it features in other international competitions.
- Windsurfing: Windsurfing, a sport that combines sailing and surfing elements, was developed in the United States in the mid-20th century. The sport is popular worldwide, particularly in coastal regions. The International Sailing Federation (World Sailing) governs the sport, and it’s included in the Olympic Games since 1984.
- Rafting: Rafting is a recreational outdoor activity using an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other bodies of water. Although originating as a leisure activity, rafting became competitive in the mid-20th century. The International Rafting Federation governs it. While not an Olympic sport, the Rafting World Championship is a major event.
- Stand Up Paddleboarding: Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) originated in Hawaii as an offshoot of surfing. It’s growing in popularity worldwide, especially in coastal regions and lakes. The International Surfing Association governs the sport. While it’s not an Olympic sport, it is included in the World Surfing Games.
- Archery: Archery, the sport of shooting arrows with a bow, dates back to prehistoric times and has been used for hunting and warfare. Now a competitive sport, it’s popular worldwide. The World Archery Federation governs the sport, with the World Archery Championships and the Olympic Games as major competitions. Archery has been part of the Olympics intermittently since 1900.
- Orienteering: Orienteering originated in the late 19th century in Sweden as a military training exercise. Today, it’s a competitive sport enjoyed globally. The International Orienteering Federation governs it, and the World Orienteering Championships is a major competition. It’s not currently an Olympic sport.
- Fishing: Fishing as a sport, also known as angling, has been around for centuries and is popular globally. The International Game Fish Association is among its governing bodies. While not an Olympic sport, there are numerous international competitions, including the World Freshwater Angling Championships.
- Triathlon: The Triathlon, a multi-discipline sport involving swimming, cycling, and running, was conceived in the mid-20th century and is now popular worldwide. The International Triathlon Union (ITU) governs the sport, with the ITU World Triathlon Series and the Olympic Games as major competitions. It’s been an Olympic sport since 2000.
- Trail Running: Trail running, a sport that consists of running and hiking over trails, grew out of road running and cross country running. It’s popular globally, particularly in mountainous regions. While there’s no single international governing body, major competitions include the Trail World Championships.
- Parkour: Parkour, a training discipline using movement developed from military obstacle course training, originated in France in the 1980s. It’s now practiced worldwide. The Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique recognizes parkour as a sport, but it’s not an Olympic sport.
- BMX Racing: BMX Racing emerged in the United States in the late 20th century and is popular worldwide, particularly among youth. The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) governs the sport, and major competitions include the UCI BMX World Championships and the Olympic Games. BMX Racing has been an Olympic sport since 2008.
- Sandboarding: Sandboarding, akin to snowboarding but on sand dunes rather than snow, is most popular in desert areas. While it’s a recreational activity more than a competitive sport, there are some competitions, such as the Sandboarding World Championship.
- Snowshoeing: Snowshoeing is a winter sport that involves walking over snow with the assistance of footwear that displaces weight over a larger area. While it originated as a means for winter travel, it’s now a popular recreational activity. Competitive snowshoeing is governed by the World Snowshoe Federation.
- Cross Country Skiing: Cross-country skiing, a winter sport that involves skiing across open country, originated in Scandinavia thousands of years ago. Today, it’s popular globally, particularly in regions with a lot of snow. The International Ski Federation governs the sport, with major competitions including the FIS Nordic World Ski Championships and the Winter Olympic Games. Cross Country Skiing has been an Olympic sport since the inaugural Winter Olympics in 1924.
- Skijoring: Skijoring, a winter sport where a person on skis is pulled by a horse, a dog, or a motor vehicle, originated in Scandinavia. It’s mostly practiced in countries with long, cold winters. While not an Olympic sport, it features in winter festivals and there are several international competitions.
- Bouldering: Bouldering is a form of rock climbing performed without the use of ropes or harnesses. It originated in the late 19th century as a training method for roped climbs and mountaineering. The International Federation of Sport Climbing governs it. Bouldering is part of the climbing event in the Olympic Games since 2020.
- Slacklining: Slacklining involves walking or balancing along a suspended length of flat webbing tensioned between two anchors. It emerged as a pastime among climbers in the late 20th century, mainly in the USA. While there are competitions and festivals, there is no single governing body, and it’s not an Olympic sport.
- Adventure Racing: Adventure Racing is a multi-disciplinary team sport involving navigation over an unmarked wilderness course with races extending anywhere from two hours up to two weeks in length. It originated in the 20th century and is popular worldwide. The Adventure Racing World Series is one of its major competitions. It’s not an Olympic sport.
- Paragliding: Paragliding is a recreational and competitive flying sport that emerged in the late 20th century. A pilot flies a light, non-motorized foot-launched glider. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale governs the sport. While not an Olympic sport, the Paragliding World Cup is a notable competition.
- Hang Gliding: Hang Gliding involves flying a light and non-motorized foot-launchable aircraft called a hang glider. It gained popularity in the 20th century. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale governs the sport. While it’s not an Olympic sport, it features in various international competitions.
- Scuba Diving: Scuba Diving is a mode of underwater diving where the diver uses a self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba). Originating in the mid-20th century, it’s popular worldwide for recreation and scientific research. Recreational Scuba training and diving is regulated by International Organizations like PADI and NAUI.
- Snorkeling: Snorkeling is the practice of swimming on or through a body of water while equipped with a diving mask and a shaped tube called a snorkel. It’s a popular recreational activity at tropical resort locations. There are no competitive events or a governing body as it’s largely a leisure activity.
- Geocaching: Geocaching is an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use a GPS receiver or mobile device to hide and seek containers, called “geocaches” or “caches”, at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. It started in the early 21st century and has grown in popularity with the rise of GPS technology.
- Polo: Polo, a horseback mounted team sport, is one of the world’s oldest known team sports. It originated in Persia over 2,000 years ago. It’s popular in many countries, with the Federation of International Polo governing the sport. Top tournaments include the World Polo Championship. Polo was an Olympic sport, but only from 1900 to 1936.
- Skydiving: Skydiving, also known as parachuting, is a method of transiting from a high point to Earth with the aid of gravity, involving the control of speed during the descent using a parachute. It may involve one or more stages of free-fall, a period during which the parachute has not been deployed. The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale governs it. While it’s not an Olympic sport, there are international competitions like the World Parachuting Championships.
- Bungee Jumping: Bungee Jumping involves jumping from a tall structure while connected to a large elastic cord. The thrill comes from the free-falling and the rebound, and the sport was popularized in the late 20th century. While it’s mainly a thrill-seeking activity, there are organized events and competitions under entities like the Bungee Jumpers Association.
What are the most popular outdoor sports?
The most popular outdoor sports include soccer, basketball, tennis, baseball, American football, golf, beach volleyball, rugby, cricket, and track and field.
How many different outdoor sports are there?
Our outdoor sports list features 56 diverse outdoor sports for various interests and skill levels.