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Americans Exercising Less in 2013

Americans Exercising Less in 2013

Workout habits worsen this year after improving in 2012

by Elizabeth Mendes

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After a strong year for frequent exercise in the U.S., Americans' workout habits have backslid so far in 2013.

Frequent Exercise in U.S. 2012 vs. 2013

The percentage of Americans exercising frequently declined each month in 2009, amid the recession, and then recovered slightly in 2010 and 2011. In most months of 2012, more Americans than ever before reported exercising frequently. This uptick in frequent exercise last year coincided with warmer than usual temperatures, setting numerous weather records.

Temperatures seem to have settled back down in most months in 2013, though, and Americans have been less likely to exercise frequently in every month so far this year when compared with 2012.

Gallup and Healthways started monitoring U.S. adults' exercise habits daily in January 2008 and have found that exercise is seasonal -- with frequency picking up in the spring and summer and declining in the fall and winter.

Monthly Averages for Frequent Exercise in U.S.

Bottom Line

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that most adults get either 150 minutes of "moderate-intensity aerobic activity" or 75 minutes of "vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week -- or some combination of those two guidelines. The CDC also suggests incorporating "muscle-strengthening activities" two or more days per week.

While Gallup and Healthways do not ask about the specific number of minutes Americans exercise or about their exercise intensity, the monthly trend in frequent exercise provides a general picture of how their habits change over time. What is clear is that fewer Americans are engaging in frequent physical activity in 2013 than did in 2012.

Given that the U.S. is still struggling with record levels of obesity, Americans need to be exercising more than ever to counter that trend -- not decreasing how much they workout. And, in fact, Gallup and Healthways have picked up a slight increase in obesity in the past several months of the year, possibly pointing to a more broadly negative trend of worsening health in the U.S.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

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

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey June 1-30, 2013, with a random sample of 15,235 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling 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 sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cellphone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.

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

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