At family gatherings and parties where food is plentiful, it’s not uncommon to hear someone say: “If only there were a pill that would let me eat what I want without getting fat!”
Although scientists may soon have such a pill, for most of us, lots of exercise and good nutrition are the keys to staying fit, being healthy, and looking good.
The desire to be in good shape and look good is one of the prime reasons people exercise, but Americans appear to be frustratingly far from their goals. In a new survey on fitness by ReportLinker, a majority of Americans were quick to find flaws in their physique. Just a third of respondents say they believe they’re in good shape, and 42% consider themselves to be too fat.
This may explain why Americans spent a record amount on plastic surgery in 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. In fact, ReportLinker found that nearly three-quarters of US respondents say there’s something about their body they’d like to change. This is especially true for those who view themselves as too fat, 87% of whom say they’d like to make a change.
Despite the obesity epidemic, Americans do say they want to be fit. Three out of four say having a good shape and looking good are particularly important to them, with more than half somewhat agreeing with this statement.
What’s more, 56% of respondents to the ReportLinker survey say they’re concerned they’re not strong or muscular enough. And a significant percentage of Americans – 75% – admit to comparing how they look to others. These respondents are also more likely to think that being in good shape or looking good is important.
As a result, many Americans turn to exercise to get fit. More than half say they play sports, although men are more likely than women to be active. Surprisingly, believing you’re overweight doesn’t necessarily lead to working out: 59% of those who say they’re too fat also say they don’t exercise at all.
Among those who do exercise, most – especially men – say they prefer to do so outside, rather than hit the gym. That’s good, experts say, because an outdoor workout yields numerous benefits, including increasing the likeliness you’ll stick with your fitness regime. Of course, some are fair weather exercisers: More than a quarter (28%) of Americans say the weather determines if they exercise indoors or outside, ReportLinker says. Meanwhile, just as many people are likely to head to the gym to exercise as those who work out at home (17% vs 18%).
Training at a fitness center is the most popular way to exercise, mentioned 40% of the time. Basketball, with 35% of mentions, ranks second, although men are more likely than women to shoot hoops. Other popular ways to exercise include swimming (35% of mentions), jogging (34% of mentions) and yoga (21% of mentions).
Of course, good health depends not only on whether you exercise, but also on how much. Both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Heart Association say Americans should exercise for at least 30 minutes five times a week. On average, Americans say they spend 6.5 hours a week playing sports or working out, but ReportLinker found that four in 10 say they work out between three and five hours per week – only slightly above the recommendations.
Motivation – or lack of it – stands as one of the biggest obstacles to exercising regularly for many Americans. Just one-third of respondents say exercising has become a habit – a normal part of their everyday schedule. Others say they need a goal to motivate them, a common recommendation experts make. For example, some Americans are turning to special sports events, such as mud runs and marathons, as a source of motivation and a reason to get off the couch. According to ReportLinker, the most popular types of such events include summit hikes (17% of mentions), mud runs (16% of mentions) and half or full marathons (14% of mentions).
For almost a third of Americans active in sports, though, motivation comes in the form of friends or exercise buddies, especially for those who play basketball (42%). Swimmers (38%) and joggers (33%) are also likely to say having a companion to exercise with is motivating.
Setting a goal to improve performance is also motivational. Thirty percent of respondents say they’re more likely to work out if they’re aiming to set a personal record. This is especially true for sports like jogging, where 43% say tracking and improving their own performance is motivational.
For those monitoring their own performances, a smartphone is a useful device to have on hand. Four in 10 people use one while exercising to track their progress, ReportLinker found. Not surprisingly, 48% of joggers say they use a smartphone to track miles, while 46% of swimmers say they use one to monitor performance at the pool. Overall, those who challenge themselves to improve upon their own performances are much more likely to use an app on their smartphones (56%) than those who train with friends (46%).
The survey results also point to a link between exercising and nutrition. More than half of exercisers, including 60% of those who care about their shape and looks, say they’ve changed their eating habits after starting a fitness program. For those who want to get healthy, then, establishing a fitness regimen is a great place to start, and it’s something most regular exercisers probably already know. As ReportLinker found, more than half of those who exercise regularly say their goal is to achieve good health.
Despite the well-publicized and significant benefits to exercise – from lowering the risk of illness to extending life expectancy – too few Americans are committing to a fitness regimen. But as the survey results show, a few simple ideas can spark major change: Find a sport or fitness activity you love, grab an exercise buddy, or set a goal. And remember, it doesn’t take much: staying healthy requires just a couple of hours of exercise a week.
This survey conducted by ReportLinker reached 503 online respondents representative of the US population. Interviews were conducted on May, 16th 2017.