Current Culture Makes It Hard for People to Exercise, Four Out of Five Americans Say

Ninety-nine percent of Americans believe that exercise helps preserve good health, but most feel they have to battle current culture to exercise regularly and that the government should do more to promote physical activity, according to a IHRSA poll.
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Boston, Massachusetts, May 15, 2007 — Ninety-nine percent of Americans believe that exercise helps preserve good health, but most feel they have to battle current culture to exercise regularly and that the government should do more to promote physical activity. These were the findings of a national public opinion poll released today by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) in advance of its 5th Annual Legislative Summit, which runs May 16 and 17.

The survey, “The Importance of Exercise,” comes at a time of mounting debate on how the nation should address escalating health care costs and alarming rates of obesity and chronic disease. Chronic diseases, such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States and account for the vast majority of health care spending.[1] <#_ftn1> ,[2] <#_ftn2> Research has shown that exercise is a key factor in preventing chronic disease.

“The link between sedentary lifestyles and the precipitous rise in obesity and chronic disease is undeniable,” said Joe Moore, President and Chief Executive Officer of IHRSA and member of the Advisory Board of the newly formed Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. “These findings tell us that exercise is a critical component of preventive health care to most Americans. However, they are losing the struggle to balance the demands of work and family with personal health and need greater support. Americans need access to the tools necessary to live healthier lifestyles.”

Taken collectively, the survey findings strongly highlight the recognized importance of exercise and support for the government to encourage exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle that can help to prevent chronic health conditions.

Americans agree at a high rate (79%) that “The current culture in America, including the pressures of work, family and financial demands, makes it hard for people to exercise regularly and maintain healthy lifestyles.” What's more, 55 percent of adults interviewed cite work demands as a barrier to people's ability to exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Eight in ten Americans (84%) say it would make it easier for people to incorporate exercise into their daily routine if employers had programs to encourage exercise. And more than three-fifths of Americans (61%) believe the government should do more to promote physical activity. More than half of those polled (51%), in fact, say the federal government currently doesn't do enough to encourage physical activity.

“If we are to make any meaningful progress in improving America's health and controlling the cost of health care in this country, we need to create a national environment that supports health,” concluded Moore. “That starts with removing federal barriers to exercise and realigning our health care system from one that focuses on “sick” care to one that focuses on prevention and wellness.”

About IHRSA's 5th Annual Legislative Summit

On May 16 and 17, health and fitness industry leaders representing businesses from 50 states and 200 Congressional Districts will be on Capitol Hill urging Members of Congress to step up efforts to remove federal barriers to exercise and to focus legislators' attention on the need to promote a health care system that supports prevention and wellness.

Under the new leadership of Joe Moore, Summit participants will address two pieces of health promotion legislation—the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R.1748 and S. 1038) and the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Bill (H.R. 245).

The WHIP Act seeks to remove barriers to worker wellness by making off-site fitness center memberships tax-free for employees when provided as an employee benefit. Current law requires workers to pay income tax on such wellness benefits. The PHIT bill would allow for exercise and physical fitness programs and certain exercise equipment to be paid for out of pre-tax dollars by including them in tax deferred medical savings vehicles—such as flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA).

While on Capitol Hill, IHRSA members will share with Members of Congress key findings of “The Importance of Exercise” survey, including the findings that three-quarters (77%) of Americans say they would encourage their Member of Congress to vote to pass WHIP; and seven in ten (70%) American adults say they would encourage their Member of Congress to vote to pass PHIT.

“The Importance of Exercise” national public opinion poll was conducted by APCO Insight® and sponsored by IHRSA. Survey findings are based on a telephone survey of 1,016 adults 18 years of age and older in the continental United States conducted on April 13 through 17, 2007. The survey was conducted using a random digit sampling method, ensuring that all households in the United States had an equal probability of being selected to participate in the survey. The margin of sampling error for a sample of 1,016 adults is ± 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Ninety-one percent of those interviewed (91%) are registered voters.


IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA is committed to taking a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to America's health and the battle against obesity and disease. IHRSA supports effective national initiatives to promote more active lifestyles for all Americans and is working to pass laws that will help affect societal changes toward a more fit America.