Yes, Americans Do Exercise — Just Not Enough

It’s not as if most Americans never exercise. They just don’t do it as often as they should, to judge by a new Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index report based on polling conducted throughout 2009.

For the year as a whole, an average of 68 percent of respondents said they exercise for 30 minutes or more on at least one day per week. The number saying they exercise for at least 30 minutes on three or more days per week was considerably lower, though, at 50 percent. Nineteen percent said they exercise that much on one or two days per week, with the rest saying they don’t get that much of a workout even one day a week.

There’s variation among different population segments in the numbers who exercise at least three days a week, but less than you might suppose. Age is a case in point. Fifty-four percent of the 18-29-year-olds said they get at least 30 minutes of exercise on three or more days a week. So do 49 percent of the 30-44-year-olds, 49 percent of the 45-64s and 48 percent of those 65 and older. Younger people might exercise more intensely than their elders (the polling did not inquire about that), but they don’t necessarily exercise much more often. If a marketer of workout equipment or attire is focusing exclusively on younger adults, the numbers suggest it is missing out on a big potential market among older exercisers.

There was just a small gender gap, with 51 percent of men and 48 percent of women claiming to exercise at least three days per week. Income was a greater point of division. Among respondents in the $100,000-plus bracket, 54 percent said they exercise at least three pays a week, vs. 47 percent of the under-$36,000 income cohort.

Unsurprisingly, respondents whose weight falls into the normal range have an above-average propensity to exercise on three or more days per week, with 56 percent saying they do so. But about half of those who are overweight (51 percent) said the same. And so did 40 percent of those classified as obese.