NORTH PALM BEACH, FL — Fitness activities and outdoor pursuits. Those two categories are now attracting the highest level of interest among sports participants in the United States. That's the conclusion of SGMA International following an analysis of the Sports Participation Topline Report (2003 edition).

Of course, a look at the top 15 sports activities [listed at right] show that the highest rank for either (treadmills No. 2 and freshwater fishing, No. 3] still trail bowling and its 53.2 million participants, which was the number one activity, according to the report.

Other fitness activities holding spots on the list included stretching, fitness walking, barbells and abdominal machines.

Top 15 Sports Activities — No. of Participants (in millions)

1. Bowling 53.2

2. Treadmill Exercise 43.4

3. Freshwater Fishing (not Fly) 42.6

4. Tent Camping 40.3

5. Billiards/Pool 39.5

6. Stretching 38.4

7. Fitness Walking 38.0

8. Day Hiking 36.8

9. Basketball 36.6

10. Running/Jogging 35.9

11. Stationary Cycling (Recumbent, spinning, upright) 29.1

12. Dumbbells 28.9

13. Hand Weights 28.5

14. Weight/Resistance Machines 27.8

14. Golf 27.8

This information is based on participation numbers in 2002 age 6 and above

Source: SGMA International