Are Americans Backing Off Exercise?

Percentage of Americans Getting Regular Exercise Declines, Survey Finds

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on January 21, 2010
From the WebMD Archives

Jan. 21, 2010 -- There is a lot of talk about exercise this time of year, as out-of-shape Americans turn over new leaves, make New Year’s resolutions, and plunk down cash for gym memberships.

But don’t let the talk fool you. Only about half of Americans exercise regularly (at least three sessions a week for 30 minutes at a time), and the percentage of exercisers declined last year compared to 2008. These are some of the findings in the latest survey by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

For the annual study, researchers interview about 1,000 people per day. In a typical month, 28,000 to 30,000 interviews are conducted. The margin of error for monthly results is +/- 0.6 percentage point. Respondents are asked to report how many days in the past seven days they exercised for at least a half hour.

Other findings include:

  • In addition to the 49.6% of Americans who reported that they exercised for at least 30 minutes three days per week, 18.5% said they exercised one or two days per week, and 31.3% reported they did not exercise on any day in the given week.
  • Americans making more than $90,000 per year are more likely to be frequent exercisers -- 54.3% vs. the national average of 49.6%.
  • Men, people living in the West, and people between the ages of 18 and 29 also are more likely to be regular exercisers.
  • Among obese Americans, 40.4% of respondents said they do not exercise for at least 30 minutes any day of the given week. That is significantly higher than the percentage of non-exercisers in the overall study population.
  • The percentage of Americans saying they exercised for at least 30 minutes at least one day per week decreased from an average of 69.1% in 2008 to 68.1% in 2009.