MOUNT PROSPECT, IL -- Exercise walking, which experienced 1.5 percent growth in 2005, remains the No. 1 participation activity surveyed by the National Sporting Goods Association (NSGA). Walking has remained on top since 1990. Data contained in NSGA’s annual “Sports Participation – Series I and II” reports, which are now available, shows 86.0 million Americans walked for exercise in 2005.

Swimming, with 58 million participants, an increase of 8.5 percent, regained the No. 2 spot that it had lost in 2002. Camping, which had replaced swimming in the runner-up spot, dropped to fourth (46 million participants, down 16.8 percent) behind exercising with equipment (54.2 million, up 4.0 percent). Bowling rounded out the top five with 45.4 million ( up 3.5 percent).

Classic fitness activities included in the survey showed healthy growth in 2005. The fastest growing fitness activity was weightlifting, which increased 35.4 percent to 35.5 million participants and a spot in the top 10 for the first time at No. 9. Working out at a club ranks 10th with 34.7 million (up 9.2 percent), aerobic exercising, 11th with 33.7 million (up 14.4 percent), and running/jogging 14th with 29.2 million (up 9.5 percent).

“On top of 2004’s increases in fitness participation, we’re seeing a trend that Americans are taking their health and fitness much more seriously,” NSGA Vice President of Information & Research Thomas B. Doyle said. “Five of the top 14 activities in our survey are fitness related, and it shouldn’t be too many years before exercise walking becomes the nation’s first 100-million-participant activity.”