Swimming is a popular sport around the world. These are high-income countries where swimming is widely popular amongst the population, in list form by continent.

Swimming is popular around the world, let’s take a macro view by continent:

1) North America

United States

The United States has won 462 Titles in international swimming competitions, including medals in the Summer Olympic Games. America consistently produces the world’s best Olympic swimmers. The United States dominate the Olympics, mainly because of its huge and diverse population of 320 million from which it can draw from and wealth.

In 2017, the number of people aged six years and older doing swimming for fitness amounted to approximately 27.14 million. That’s about 8.4% of the U.S population. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2009 to 2015, of the 18.1 percent of people in the United States aged 15 and older who engaged in sports and exercise activities on a given day, 7.2% participated in swimming, water skiing or surfing.


A 2018 study conducted by Cint surveyed about 47,418 adults aged 18 or older on the kind of participated sports in Canada in 2018. Shown below, 10.5% of respondents said they don’t participate in sports regularly while 6.39% said they participate in swimming regularly.

The graph displays more information regarding other types of sports Canadians regularly participate in.

While swimming is the top choice for many Canadians, it’s alarming to see that 10.5% don’t participate in sports regularly. According to Statistics Canada, sport participation in Canadian kids is on the decline. A 2005 General Social Survey (GSS) compared its results to the 1992 GSS. Over the course of thirteen years, sports participation of boys has declined from 66% to 56%. Over the same time period, sports participation of girls has changed little, from 49% to 45%.


2) Europe

United Kingdom

England is known for being the first country to participate in swimming as both a recreational and competitive sport. In 1837, competitions were held in man-made pools in London. The National Swimming Society in England was responsible for organizing the competitions, which grew quickly in popularity. The very first indoor pool in the history of swimming was built in 1862 in England. The main swimming styles used in competitions were the breaststroke and the sidestroke.

In 2015/2016, approximately 4.18 million people swam on a monthly basis in England. Between 2007 and 2016 the number of people that swim on a monthly basis decreased by 1.4 million however, the monthly share of children aged 5-10 participating in swimming activities increased from 45.3% to 53.5% during the same time span (Statista).

3) Australia

As both a country and a continent, Australians are surrounded by water and experience warm weather year round (even in their winters). Approximately 9.3 million Australians participated in swimming in 2017. That’s about 38% of Australia’s population!

According to The Royal Life Saving Society (RLS) and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), swimming participation amongst Australians aged 15 and older has declined by roughly 30% between 2005/2006 and 2013/2014!

Despite the drop in participation, the above statistics from 2017 prove that swimming is still widely popular. To further support that, the RLS’s 2018 fact sheet summarizes findings from the Australian Sports Commission’s 2016 AusPlay report. The findings suggest swimming is the most popular after-school activity for children, and the third most popular form of exercise for adults of both sexes, behind walking and fitness/gym.


4) Asia


Swimming is one of the most popular sports in Singapore. Despite its size, the country dominates swim meets in Southeast Asia. At the end of June 2016, Singapore’s population was 5.61 million, according to government figures. Singapore’s 2015 sports index took stock of Singapore’s activity level and sport participation. Swimming was the third most popular activity followed by walking and running/jogging. Of 7,602 respondents, 15.1% participated in swimming in the past year, 7.9% participated in the last four weeks and 5.9% participated once a week in the last four weeks.

At the Rio Olympics in 2016, Joseph Schooling won Singapore’s first Olympic gold medal in any sport, claiming the 100-meter butterfly in 50.39 seconds. In a country where studies take priority over sports, Schooling’s Olympic gold medal has been highly impactful. He’s responsible for a cultural shifting of attitudes towards sports in Singapore. Singapore’s first gold medal is inspiring a younger generation to believe that sports can make a difference. The Singapore Swimming Association’s National Training Centre was established in 2015 to help support athletic talent.

Their public water parks are insane. Slides, wave pools, caverns, you name it! Singapore’s public water parks have it all, for a small fee that ranges between $0.80 and $2.60. With the sweltering tropical heat, it’s no wonder they’re a local favorite! Swimming pool attendances have been on an uptick in Singapore since 2011. In 2011 there were 6.94 million swimming pool attendances (not attendees), by 2016 that number rose to 7.08 million and then dipped slightly in 2017 to 7.06 million.

Graph via Statista displaying the number of swimming pool attendances from 2011-2017.


5) Africa


Going back to ancient times, swimming was the favorite sport of the ancient Egyptians, who made use of the River Nile to practice it. The Nile was not the only place for swimming contests. Noblemen’s palaces had swimming pools in which princes learned the sport.

Today, triathlons are extremely popular in Egypt and across the Middle East. As with the U.S, the rise of the sport coincided with the emergence of the health food and fitness movements, with dozens of vegetarian restaurants, organic salad bars and yoga studios appearing in Cairo in recent years.

An unlikely place for triathlon popularity to flourish –  it has been helping Egyptians channel their energy into something productive and positive amongst the chaos. Amongst the wealthy Egyptians, the sport is flourishing despite substantial native impediments, such as the conflict and terror that racks the region, the negative attitudes toward women training in Lycra, the unbearable heat for several months of the year, and the lack of public parks. As for swimming, there are hardly any pools for the public; they’re mainly at hotels and in private clubs. And the Nile River is too murky and full of litter to swim in today. However, with Egypt’s crushing poverty, triathlons are unfortunately unattainable for many. A quarter of the population lives on about $28 a month, this makes it hard for the majority of the population to participate as the cost of triathlons is pretty hefty.