According to the National Sporting Goods Association, exercise walking remained the most popular sport in 2007 in terms of participation as it grew 2.7%, a position it has held since 1990. Data contained in NSGA’s annual “Sports Participation – Series I and II” reports, which will be available in May, shows 89.8 million Americans walked for exercise in 2007.

Exercising with equipment, with a less than 1% increase, moved ahead of swimming for the No. 2 spot. With its 0.8% increase, exercising with equipment attracted 52.8 million participants. Swimming’s 7.3% decrease to 52.3 million participants dropped it to the No. 3 position.

Other fitness activities were a generally strong in 2007. Workout at club, which was the fastest growing fitness activity in 2006, declined 3.0% to 33.8 million participants and slipped from the No. 7 to the No. 8 slot. Weight lifting, with 33.2 million participants, rose 0.9% and rose to the No. 9 position. Running/jogging, 14th with 29.2 million participants last year, rose to the No. 11 spot on the strength of a 5.5% growth to 30.4 million runners/joggers.

Among fitness activities, only aerobic exercising, 9th with 33.7 million participants in 2006, showed a significant decline. It fell 9.9% to 30.3 million and slipped to the No. 12 spot. Some of the decline may have come from the inclusion of yoga in the survey for the first time. Yoga attracted 10.7 million participants in 2007.

Despite a 2.2% decline in participation (47.5 million), camping continued to hold the fourth position. Bowling retained the No. 5 position with 43.5 million (-2.9%).

Moving ahead of fishing and workout at club, bicycle riding took the No. 6 position with a 5.0% increase to 37.4 million cyclists. Fishing attracted 35.3 million participants (-13.0%) and slipped to the No. 7 position.

“It was good to see strong tennis growth in 2007. Over the past several years, that industry segment has put in place strong programs to attract new participants,” NSGA Vice President of Information & Research Thomas B. Doyle said. Tennis participation rose almost 20% to 12.3 million participants.

Among team sports, only volleyball showed an increase. Participation grew 8.7% to 12.0 million.

Activities newly surveyed for the 2007 report include yoga, lacrosse, kayaking, mountain/rock climbing and scuba.

For this survey, a participant is someone age seven or older who takes part in the sport or activity more than once in a calendar year. “Sports Participation in 2007 – Series I and II” cover 47 sports, recreation and fitness activities. Participation rates for all 47 sports surveyed may be viewed on the NSGA website (

These reports have been published by NSGA for nearly 30 years. They provide data on total 2006 participation, frequency of participation, and average number of participation days. Single-time participation, which is not counted in the total, is included separately.

Demographic data on participants includes gender, age, mean age by gender, gender by age, household income, and education of male and female head of household. Geographic analysis includes nine census regions and metro area size. Presence of children is also noted, and Internet usage is reported by gender and age of participants.