Getting Exercise, Happily or Not

Amid all the churn in gym memberships, all the comings and goings of “activewear” brands, there is great stability in the incidence of regular exercise. The latest report on the topic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds 32 percent of adults engaging in “regular leisure-time physical activity” in the first three quarters of 2008. Dating back to 1997, the figure has never risen above 33 percent or fallen below 29 percent.

There is, though, considerable variation by age and gender in the number of people who regularly exercise. Among men, the number trends downward from 44 percent among the 18-24-year-olds to 34 percent among the 25-64s, 30 percent among the 65-74s and 22 percent among those 75 and older. Among the women, it stands at 32 percent among the 18-24s and 25-64s before trending downward to 25 percent among the 65-74s and to 14 percent among those 75-plus.

A new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report, meanwhile, looks at the correlation between exercise and “happiness.” It’s there, all right, but not as strongly as the people sweating away in gyms might wish. In interviews throughout 2008 and into last month, 92 percent of adults who get 30 minutes of exercise on four, five or six days a week (and 90 percent of those who do so every day) rated themselves as happy. The figure was just modestly lower, at 84 percent, among those who get such exercise on zero days per week.

There was a slightly stronger link between exercise and feeling one has “enough energy.” Seventy-nine percent of those who get the 30 minutes of exercise on no days said they feel sufficiently energetic, vs. a high of 93 percent among those who exercise six days a week.