SILVER SPRING, MD -- Participation in many fitness activities has grown during the past 10 years, but none more so than Pilates training and the use of elliptical machines, according to the “Sports, Fitness, and Recreation Participation Overview” (2010 edition), recently released by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA).

Since 2000, the activity with the highest participation growth rate was Pilates training, growing 456 percent from 1.56 million participants in 2000 to 8.65 million in 2009.

The elliptical trainer ranked second in participation growth, growing from 7.37 million participants in 2000 to 26.52 million in 2009, a growth rate of 260 percent.

Other club activities with high growth in participation rates since 2000 include group stationary cycling (45 percent growth from 4.7 million participants to 6.8 million), tennis (growth of 43 percent from 12.97 million participants to 18.53 million), treadmill use (growth of 37.9 percent from 37.29 million to 51.42 million) and exercising to music (37 percent growth rate from 16 million to 22 million).

“Looking back over the past decade, it’s exciting to see how sports and fitness have evolved to meet the needs and desires of ‘active’ consumers,” said Tom Cove, SGMA president and CEO. “The tremendous growth of Pilates and elliptical training show how appropriate technology can bring so many people into an ‘active’ lifestyle.”

For 2009, class-oriented fitness activities—such as high-impact aerobics, low-impact aerobics and step aerobics—had solid participation gains, with 8.1 percent, 6.3 percent and 4.5 percent growth rates respectively from the prior year. Group exercise classes provide an economically attractive and psychologically uplifting environment that inspires people to perspire alongside friends and colleagues, according to SGMA.

The sports and activities with the highest levels of interest among all participants in 2009 were fitness-related, according to SGMA. Fitness activities accounted for nine out of the top 15 athletic pursuits. The most popular activity based on overall participation was walking for fitness, with 110 million participants. Although bowling came in second at 57.29 million, another health-club related activity, using the treadmill, came in third at 51.42 million participants. Use of free weights (hand weights) ranked fourth at 45.93 million, and running/jogging came in fifth at 43.89 million.

Also ranking in the top 15 were use of weight/resistance machines (No. 9 with 39.75 million participants), stretching (No. 10 with 36.31 million), use of dumbbell free weights (No. 11 with 35.74 million), use of barbell free weights (No. 14 with 27.05 million) and use of elliptical motion trainers (No. 15 with 26.52 million).