NEW YORK — For the second consecutive year, fitness walking — an activity that requires limited equipment — was the most popular workout for women, based on frequency of participation, in 1996.
That’s the result of a new sports-participation survey conducted by American Sports Data, a Hartsdale, N.Y., market research group that tracks participation in 62 sports and activities. There were 15,000 households polled. Respondents were six years old and up.
Last year, there were 9.8 million females who indulged in fitness walking at least 100 times. That was nearly twice as many participants as those who exercised to music — which is predominantly aerobics — or used a treadmill, the activities that finished second and third, respectively.
In addition to not requiring significant expenses, fitness walking and exercising to music are workouts that can be done in a variety of environments, said a spokesman for the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the study’s sponsor.
The social aspect of fitness walking is probably “the biggest reason” women do it, the spokesman said. Unlike many sports, it can be done alone or with a group, he added. In the last year, many shopping malls introduced early-morning walking programs to encourage window shopping, the spokesman said.
The fact that sportswear or activewear can be worn for walking also appeals to women. Tennis and golf, for example, generally require more specific clothing.

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