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U.S. Exercise Levels Up, but Demographic Differences Remain

U.S. Exercise Levels Up, but Demographic Differences Remain

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans living in the West, men, seniors, and young adults are among the most likely to report exercising frequently so far in 2010. Asians, those aged 30 to 44, and Americans who make between $36,000 and $89,999 per year are among the least likely to report the same.


Frequent exercise, defined here as those who report exercising for at least 30 minutes on five or more days per week, varies by 7.1 percentage points across demographic groups. The national average for 2010 so far (January through May) is 26.5%. Gallup reported last week that while frequent exercise is up so far this year compared with 2009 (26.1%), it has yet to rebound to 2008 levels.

The demographic differences in frequent exercise in 2010 are similar to those found in 2009 and in 2008, revealing that the ups and downs in exercise frequency are more likely reflective of a nationwide pattern than of subgroup-specific issues. Frequent exercise was down in every key demographic group last year compared with 2008. It is on the rise among almost all groups so far in 2010.

Hispanics, seniors, and those making less than $36,000 per year are the only groups that are tracking negatively in 2010 compared with 2009. Blacks and young adults, however, are the most improved in terms of frequent exercise so far this year versus 2009, with an increase of 1.7 and 1.3 percentage points, respectively. Whether these groups will continue to improve their levels of physical activity is yet to be determined. Gallup and Healthways will continue to track exercise habits daily and update the 2010 data on demographic differences in exercise on a regular basis on


Learn more about the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of Gallup Daily tracking/the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey Jan. 1 2008-May 31, 2010, with a random sample of 850,824 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of error is ±1 percentage point.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish speaking. Each daily sample includes a minimum quota of 150 cell phone respondents and 850 landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents for gender within region. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, cell phone-only status, cell phone-mostly status, and phone lines. Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2009 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index™

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index measures the daily pulse of U.S. well-being and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

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