Exercise: Who does it Best?

Jennifer Rudloff

Exercise rates are nowhere near what they should be in the US. No matter how you cut it, no segment of the population is exercising at levels necessary to prevent chronic disease, mitigate lifestyle risks, or keep people active and healthy. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, just over 50% of the U.S. population integrates regular exercise sessions into their routine. So who does it best? Check out the exercise demographics below. Please note: the percentages that you see below represent the % of people exercising 3 or more times per week for at least 30 minutes at a time.

  • Gender: Exercise rates are higher among males with 52.8% of males exercising regularly in 2010 vs. 49.5% of females.
  • Age: Regular exercise declines with age, with those in the 18-29 group getting regular exercise the most (56.2%) vs. the 65+ population who exercises the least (48.4%). 50.8% of people in the 30-44 age group get regular exercise, with that number declining to 50.0% for the 45-64 age group.
  • Marital Status: People who are single are most likely to exercise regularly (54.2%), followed by the folks who are married (51.0%). 48.9% of people who are divorced exercise regularly, and that number declines to 45.9% for those who are widowed.
  • Children: Contrary to some beliefs, those who have children actually do not have significantly lower regular exercise than those without children. 50.8% of those with children exercise regularly, compared to 51.3% of those without children.
  • Ethnicity: When looking at exercise by ethnicity, Hispanics (51.1%) and Caucasians (51.0%) have the highest exercise rates. 49.3% of African Americans exercise regularly and the Asian population exercises regularly the least at 48.2%. I was a little surprised on this one to see Asians so low and Hispanics so high. I have checked the numbers on this a few times – the trends were similar in 2009 and 2008.
  • Income: Income is the biggest disparity driver of all of the demographic segments. At the lowest end, of those who make less than $24K per year, 47.7% exercise regularly. The % exercising regularly incrementally increases as income increases, with 56.8% of those making more than $120K exercising regularly.
  • Region: Regional differences in exercise rates are negligible, with the exception of the West. In the West, 54.9% are exercising regularly, vs. the Midwest at 49.9%, the South at 50.0% and the East at 50.0%.

When comparing those who exercise regularly vs. those who do not, we see substantial differences across all of the Well-Being Index domains.

  • Emotional Health: People who exercise have lower stress levels, worry less, and are more likely to be learning and doing interesting things.
  • Life Evaluation: Those who exercise are more likely to be in the “thriving” category of Life Evaluation, and are spending 20% less on average in healthcare costs.
  • Physical Health: Those who exercise are substantially more likely to feel well rested and have sufficient energy, and are (obviously) less prone to being diagnosed with a chronic condition. Their BMI risk is also cut in half.
  • Basic Access: People who exercise are more likely to live in a safe neighborhood and to perceive their city as getting better as a place to live.
  • Work Environment: People who exercise are more likely to be satisfied with their job and also are more likely to be using their strengths to do what they do best at work.

What are your barriers to exercise?

Topics: Healthy Living Well-Being Index