Home workouts may be the choice of time-pressed Americans, study finds

When time is tight -- and who isn't time-pressed these days? -- it's not news that exercise falls off the to-do list. That means that working out at home may help those who can indeed find a small window to pay more attention to their health, a recent study found.
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When time is tight -- and who isn't time-pressed these days? -- it's not news that exercise falls off the to-do list. That means that working out at home may help those who can indeed find a small window to pay more attention to their health, a recent study found.

The Trends in Fitness Poll, conducted among 750 Americans and commissioned by FitTV, shows that more and more Americans prefer the "do-it-yourself" method -- be that for creating an exercise schedule and workouts, diet plans, or seeking health information online.

"Experts say lack of physical activity contributes to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths per year in the U.S.," said Carole Tomko, senior vice president and general manager of FitTV. "Finding time to squeeze exercise into our busy lives is the best gift we can give ourselves."

More news that may not be new: Six in 10 Americans reported in the survey they have either a moderate amount or a lot of stress in their lives. Part of the problem is that people feel pressured by having too many things to do and not enough time to do them, the survey concluded. And exercise is one of the activities that has gone by the wayside -- 39 percent of those surveyed say they have had to cut back on or eliminate their workouts.

Enter home workouts
This research found that Americans want fitness on their own terms. By more than a 2-to-1 margin, Americans polled said they preferred to exercise at home rather than at a gym or health club.
>> Only one in five Americans (21 percent) currently belongs to a gym or health club. Membership is higher among women (24 percent) than men (18 percent).
>> More than half of Americans (56 percent) -- nearly the same split when looking at men vs. women -- currently exercise at home.
>> Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) said they preferred exercise at home because it was more convenient. Just over half (51 percent) said it was because of the cost at a gym. Thirty-nine percent named more flexibility and a third (33 percent) mentioned privacy.

How much, how little, and does equipment matter?
Exercising at home doesn't mean more regular workouts necessarily than someone who goes to a gym, the study find, but it does mean nearly as much and perhaps even higher intensity.
>> The number of Americans who exercise at home at least three days a week
(42 percent) is only slightly less than those who belong to a gym (49 percent).
>> The number of Americans who exercise at home six or seven days a week
(12 percent) is actually higher than those who belong to a gym (9 percent).

An interesting finding from the study is that Americans who exercise at home and have their own equipment exercise more frequently than those who exercise at home and do not have their own equipment.
>> Nearly half of Americans who exercise at home and have their own equipment (48 percent) exercise at least three days a week -- 6 percent more than those without equipment. This is about the same as those who belong to a gym (49 percent).
>> Americans who exercise at home and have their own equipment are much more likely to be "heavy" exercisers (14 percent) than people who belong to gyms (9 percent).

Unhealthy, unsatisfied
Americans called physical health and overall physical fitness as important but didn't seem to be satisfied with their own.  

In the survey, when Americans were asked what was important to them personally in their lives, the answers, "my physical health" and "my overall fitness" ranked high.
>> A majority of Americans (54 percent) -- again nearly the same split gender-wise -- said that "my physical health" is very important personally. Yet only 32 percent say they are very satisfied with it.
>> Two in five Americans (41 percent) said that "my overall physical fitness" is very important personally. Yet only 41 percent say they are very satisfied.

All or nothing
So here we come back to time, or a lack thereof. "Demands on time" is one of the leading reasons Americans say they don't exercise more, with half naming the problem as either "work schedule" or "lack of motivation." Demands of a work schedule is seen by men as worse (34 percent compared to 18 percent of women), as is lack of motivation larger for men (31 percent vs. 2 percent).

So what about all those national messages that say, every little bit counts, do something, just walk a little, etc.? Seems they are falling on mostly deaf ears when it comes to non-exercisers. This study found that Americans who do not exercise believe that they must exercise for an hour or more to get health benefits. Still, when asked how much time they would like to spend exercising, nearly half of those who don't exercise (46 percent) said one hour or more. In contrast, three in five Americans (59 percent) who do exercise spend 30 minutes or less per day.

And even though we all feel as if we don't have a minute to spare, the average American has approximately two hours and 45 minutes of leisure time per day.

Work not play
Even though those who do exercise see it as fun, that's not how those who don't view it. And that may be keeping them from a workout. Most view exercise as work, not play, so it doesn't fit into their window for "leisure" activities. In fact, it falls well below things like watching TV or surfing the Internet.

>> When asked if they consider exercise work or play, only 18 percent of Americans said play, 43 percent said work, and 39 percent said both. Those that say exercise is both work and play said they know they must do it, but do enjoy it once they start.
>> Only 17 percent of Americans -- 21 percent of men and 13 percent of women -- cited exercise as one of their top three favorite activities.
>> Still, more Americans than that (23 percent) listed walking as a favorite leisure activity. Walking, it seems, is not considered by most Americans to be exercise.

The FitTV Trends in Fitness Poll was a comprehensive, nationally representative Internet study among 750 Americans 18 years of age and older conducted in late summer 2004. The survey was conducted by TNS, Inc. for FitTV, a cable network (www.discovery.com) dedicated to fitness and wellness. The margin of error for the study is +/-3.5 at the 95th percentile confidence interval.

SNEWS® View: So much to digest. No, this isn't all huge news, but some of it reaffirms what we know and in fact may be yet another reason to look hard at promotional, marketing and selling aspects prevalent in the industry. With so many non-exercisers viewing exercise as work, there has to be a different method of getting people in the door. And that may actually not mean for the very beginners a piece of equipment. On the other hand, maybe it does mean equipment, but if motivation is a problem, how does the industry work (together, if we may be so bold as to say that) to help motivate people and to get them to try just a little? As the few said who did talk themselves into it, once they started, it felt good. People aren't stupid. There's no reason to try to convince them that 30 minutes on a piece of equipment is all smiles and fun. It ain't all the time, we know that. Is that the ugly secret here that we can't share? BUT we who do exercise know how it makes us feel after we get started, after we're done, and just overall in our day-to-day lives. That may be the really important message.

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