US Exercise Habits Slightly Improve

February 17, 2011

gallup-exercise-habits-trend-2008-2010-feb11.gifThe percentage of Americans who said they exercised for at least 30 minutes three or more days per week rose to 51.1% in 2010, up 3% from 49.6% in 2009, according to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. In addition, three in 10 US adults reported exercising for at least 30 minutes zero days per week, a slight improvement from 2009, but on par with 2008.

The small uptick in frequent exercise in 2010 reveals a positive shift from 2009, when Americans reported exercising less frequently in almost every month compared with 2008, but is still on par with 2008 levels.

Obese Are 28% Less Likely than Americans Who Are Normal Weight to Exercise Frequently

gallup-exercise-bmi-2010-feb-2011.JPGObese Americans are about 28% less likely than Americans who are normal weight to say they exercise for at least 30 minutes three or more days per week. Approximately four in 10 obese Americans exercise that frequently, compared with nearly six in 10 adults who are normal weight.

Those who are overweight are also less likely than those who are normal weight to exercise frequently, but they do so at a level about on par with the national average. Gallup says the explanation for these relationships, however, is not clear. Analysis suggests possibilities including that overweight and obese people might have arrived at that state because they didn’t exercise in the past, or they might have difficulty exercising because they are overweight and obese.

Young, Wealthy, Westerners Most Likely to Exercise Regularly

gallup-exercise-demographic-2010-feb-20111.JPGYoung adults aged 18-29 are the demographic group most likely to exercise three or more days per week, with 56.2% reporting doing so, followed closely by upper-income Americans with an annual household income of $90,000 or more (55.7%), and those living in the West (54.9%). Men and middle-income Americans (those whose household income is between $36,000 and $89,999 per year) also report frequent exercise levels higher than the national average.

The range in frequent exercise, however, is small, with only about eight percentage points separating the demographic least likely to exercise frequently, low-income Americans with annual income of less than $36,000 (48.1%), and young adults. Asian Americans (48.2%), and seniors (48.5%) are also among the least likely to report three or more days of exercise.

Obesity Demographics Generally Follow Exercise Demographics

In general, Gallup-Healthways data indicates the groups most and least likely to exercise frequently also have the lowest and highest obesity rates in the nation. Young adults and high-income Americans are among those in the least obese groups, while low-income and black Americans are among the most likely to be obese.

One exception is Asian Americans. While they are among the least likely to report frequent exercise, they are also, by a significant margin, the least likely to be obese. This may reveal that Asian Americans’ low obesity levels are tied more directly to their eating habits or to another potential genetic or economic factor.

Obesity Levels Slightly Drop in Q4 2010

Quarterly tracking of Americans’ weight situation by Gallup-Healthways reveals that obesity levels dropped slightly in Q4 2010, but the percentage who were overweight increased by about the same amount. Obesity levels rose above 26% in the first quarter of 2009 and have remained at that level since then. Slightly more Americans have been overweight than normal weight each quarter since Gallup and Healthways began tracking BMI in the United States in 2008.

About the Data: Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey January 2008-December 2010, with a random sample of 352,840 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 US states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

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