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What is a "hobby?" By definition, a hobby is an activity that we do for pleasure during our leisure time. Over the years, America's hobbies have evolved — where we once collected stamps and model planes, we're now surfing the Internet and playing "Angry Birds." To get a better idea of how Americans spend their leisure time in the 21st century, we looked into the Bureau of Labor Statistics' American Time Use Survey, or ATUS.
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Americans spend half their leisure time in front of the television, making it the most popular 21st-century "hobby." According to a report by The Nielsen Co., 56.4 percent of that time in front of the TV is spent watching reality TV, while only 20 percent is spent watching sports.
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Sports and Exercise
Men are 6 percent more likely to exercise or play sports than are their "better halves." According to the National Sporting Goods Association, the activities that both sexes engaged in the most in 2010 were "exercise walking," exercising with equipment, swimming, bike riding and bowling.
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Leisurely reading varied drastically by age group. "Individuals age 75 and over averaged 1.1 hours of reading per weekend day," the ATUS says. "Conversely, individuals ages 15 to 19 read for an average of 6 minutes per weekend day."
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"Currently there are more than half a billion people worldwide playing online games at least an hour a day — and 183 million in the US alone," writes Jane McGonigal, author of "Reality is Broken. "The average young person racks up 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of 21. That's almost exactly as much time as they spend in a classroom during all of middle school and high school if they have perfect attendance. Most astonishingly, 5 million gamers in the U.S. are spending more than 40 hours a week playing games — the same as a full-time job!"
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"Social networks and blogs reach nearly 80 percent of active U.S. Internet users and represent the majority of Americans' time online," the Nielsen Social Media Report says. Where does America spend its time online? In May 2011, Americans spent 53 billion minutes on Facebook, making it the most popular U.S. website.
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Playing or Listening to Music
If Facebook "likes" are any indication, Americans love music. Of the top 30 most "liked" things, 11 are recording artists, and "music" itself has over 32 million fans (as of the time of publication).
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In 2010, Americans took 1.5 billion leisure trips. According to the U.S. Travel Association, the most popular reasons for taking leisure trips are seeing friends and family, shopping, sightseeing and going to the beach.
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Going to the Movies
Three out of every four Americans go to the movies at least once a year. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, "movie theaters in U.S./Canada continue to draw more people than all theme parks and major U.S. sports combined."
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Even though the recession hit retailers pretty hard, the apparel industry is making a valiant comeback — especially through online shopping. In 2010, Americans spent $186 billion in online transactions.
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Relaxing and Thinking
While "relaxing" isn't a "hobby" as much as it is an absence of a hobby, it deserved to be included in this list. According to the ATUS, men spent more time "relaxing and thinking" than they did reading, and women spent more time "relaxing and thinking" than they did exercising or playing sports.
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