The Unexpected Factors That May Influence Your Exercise Habits

Your gender, race, and income could affect your workout routine more than you thought.

The Unexpected Factors That May Influence Your Exercise Habits

The most recent report in Gallup and Sharecare’s State of American Well-Being series looked at the rates of regular exercise among Americans. Respondents to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index were asked how many days did they exercise in the last week for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time. Those who had this level of exercise for three or more days, by the study’s standards, were considered regular exercisers. It’s important to note that the study’s data was self-reported, so participants could have considered a wide range of activities like walking, running, cycling, hiking, going to the gym, gardening or performing household chores as exercise.

Among the most active communities were Boulder (#1), Fort Collins (#2) and Greeley (#4) in Colorado and San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande (#3) and Santa Rosa (#5) in California. Akron, Ohio and Hickory–Lenoir–Morganton, North Carolina didn’t fare so well, earning themselves spots among the least active communities in 2016.

Regular exercise offers benefits including weight control, a lower risk of heart disease and increased longevity. The national guidelines recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity each week.  

Since 2008, the number of Americans who get moving on a regular basis is up by two percentage points, making the national average 53.4 percent in 2016. Surprisingly, your rate of exercise may be linked, in part, to more than your willpower or desire to get in shape. In fact, factors like your ethnicity, gender, and income may play a role in how active you are.    

Men vs. women

Data from 2016 suggests the rate of men who exercise regularly is 4.5 percentage points higher than the number of women who do.

These results are in-line with other research that suggests men get more physical activity than their female counterparts, and are not specific to the United States alone. One Brazilian study of 3,100 people suggests men are more likely than women to get active during leisure time, the hours in a day not dedicated to work, household chores or sleep.      

What’s race got to do with it?

The rate of physical activity varies by race and ethnicity, too. Among the most successful at getting regular exercise were members of the Hispanic population. More than 55 percent of Hispanics surveyed performed 30 minutes of exercise or more at least three times in the previous week. At 54.6 percent, Asians were not far behind.

Money matters

Your income also has a relationship to the amount of regular exercise you do. Data suggests, the more money an individual makes, the more he or she moves. There could be a lot of reasons for this, including flexible work schedules, access to child care and enough financial stability to pay for gym memberships and workout classes, all of which make getting and staying active easier.   

The study showed that people with an annual income below 36,000 dollars exercised at a rate 4.3 percentage points lower, as compared to those who earned between 36,000 and 90,000 dollars a year. The margin is even greater as income increases—people with a salary between 36,000 and 90,000 were 9.3 percentage points lower in terms of regular exercise, as compared to those who made more than 90,000 dollars.    

Exercising with age

There’s more still. Age also has a relationship with just how much a person moves. More people between the ages of 18 and 29 got regular physical activity in comparison to survey participants over 65, dropping from 59.5 percent to 49.6 percent. Rates of regular activity declined steadily with age, from 54.9 percent for those between 30 and 44 to 51.5 percent among participants age 45 to 64.    

Simple ways to get moving  

Adding exercise to your daily routine doesn’t have to be difficult. A few simple tweaks can put you among the more than 53 percent of Americans who are regularly active:

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