The medical profession could be key in getting more people to work out, according to the results of the third edition of the "Fitness American Style" survey done by Ketchum Global Research Network for the IHRSA association.
The key drivers to getting involved in an exercise program or joining a club is if someone had a recent physical. But doctors aren't using their clout enough: Only four of 10 doctors actually asked the person if he or she were exercising, and 28 percent were told by their doctor they should exercise.
Aside from doctors, saving money and getting tax breaks could give some people the boot they need to get with a program: Half of respondents said they would be "somewhat" or "very likely" to start or renew a program or club membership if the costs were tax-free, and 57 percent of respondents said they would exercise more if there were a company-sponsored program at their place of work.
"Men are more likely to cite practical reasons (for not exercising), while women are more likely to cite physical or psychological ones," the study found.
The research, which was done by mail in January 2007, asked a representative sample of 1,000 Americans older than 18 about their feelings on exercise, clubs, and other factors. Preliminary results were presented at the 2007 IHRSA show in late March. The first one was done in 2001 and the second edition was done in 2004.
Also revealed was that younger individuals, city dwellers, parents and those with incomes higher than $75,000 were most likely to take advantage of tax breaks for working out.
To club or not
The research found that almost twice as many Americans exercise outside of a health club or athletic facility than at one -- 76 percent compared to 42 percent. Among current members, 90 percent also exercise outside the club, and 95 percent of recent members exercise outside a club.
Regardless of the workout location, more than four in 10 say they exercise two to three times a week; however, sessions at clubs were a couple of percent longer than those outside of a club. Most current club members go to their clubs two or three times a week for about an hour on average.
Current members rate health attributes such as lower stress, better appearance, weight loss and fewer chronic diseases to exercise, ranging from about 84 percent to 97 percent. Non-club members say exercise attributes to health in these areas at a much lower rate, or 59 percent to 89 percent.
Yes, we are fat
Nobody has to tell Americans they are overweight. The research found that 89 percent of Americans agreed there is an obesity epidemic here, with current members more likely to strongly agree with that (75 percent) compared to non-members (60 percent).
But that doesn't apply to everybody. About 30 percent of non-members said "exercise and fitness are not priorities," and even 28 percent of current members said the same, while only a smidgen less (26 percent) of the general population agreed with that.
Presenters from Ketchum and IHRSA noted that it's important to make exercise "easy," and to emphasis the overall benefits to health and well-being, as well as to make the emotional connection about its benefits to lower stress and a better state of mind.