Exploring Exercise Habits in America: How Many Americans Actually Exercise?

Exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. It helps prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, improves mental health, and enhances overall well-being. Yet, despite the numerous benefits of regular exercise, many Americans struggle to maintain an active lifestyle. In this article, we’ll explore the latest research and statistics on exercise habits in America and offer tips and solutions to help overcome the barriers to regular exercise.

How Many Americans Actually Exercise?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only 23% of Americans meet the recommended guidelines for physical activity, which is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. The numbers are even lower when it comes to strength training, with only 18% of Americans engaging in muscle-strengthening activities like lifting weights or doing push-ups.

Gender, age, and race are significant factors in exercise participation rates. Women exercise less than men, with only 18% meeting the guidelines compared to 27% of men. Those between the ages of 18-24 years are more likely to exercise regularly, with a participation rate of 30%, while those 65 years and older are less likely to exercise, with only a 15% participation rate. Ethnic minorities, specifically Black and Hispanic communities, are more likely to be physically inactive.

While America’s exercise habits fall short compared to other countries like Germany, Australia, and the UK, the silver lining is the percentage of Americans who exercise regularly is slowly increasing. Studies show that today’s millennials are more health-conscious and exercise-focused than their predecessors, meaning the trend for regular exercise in America is looking up.

From Couch Potato to Fitness Fanatic

Reasons for exercise habits vary, but for those who do exercise, the benefits range from weight management to mental clarity. Research suggests that some changes in exercise participation rates could be due to the rise in fitness culture, the cost-effectiveness of virtual workouts, and the newly emerging popularity of outdoor activities.

When it comes to preferred types of exercise, walking is a favorite among Americans, with 30% stating it as their preferred form of exercise, followed by biking (12%), swimming (10%), and running (7%). A significant shift has been the rise in popularity of group exercise, which ranges from dance-inspired workouts to outdoor group fitness classes. With socially distant and outdoor workouts being more accessible during the pandemic, research suggests that the trend is likely to continue.

Why Are So Many Americans Skipping Exercise?

The CDC identifies several common barriers to regular exercise. These include a lack of time, cost, lack of motivation, and physical limitations. Lifestyle factors like work commitments, childcare duties, and social events often leave little time or energy for exercise. Emotional and psychological factors, like stress and anxiety, can also diminish motivation or lead to skipping workouts altogether.

In addition to the barrier between hectic work-life and workout routines, the COVID-19 pandemic further increased the struggle to stay active. For some, losing one’s job or taking on a new caretaking role consumed more time and energy, further decreasing opportunities to stay active.

The Health Benefits of Exercise

The health benefits of exercise are ten-fold. Regular physical activity strengthens your heart, bones, and muscles, improves mental health, and increases overall energy. It can also reduce the onset of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and depression.

Studies by the American Heart Association show that those who follow or exceed the recommendations on exercise participation significantly reduce the risk of heart disease, with up to 50% fewer deaths caused by cardiovascular health issues.

Making Exercise a Habit: Tips and Tricks

According to research, it takes about 21 days to form a new habit. When it comes to exercise, a few proven strategies can get you started and keep you going.

One tip is to have a set routine. Create a schedule that fits your life and stick to it. This could include working out at the same time each day or setting up a specific workout plan with custom workouts. Mix up your exercise routine and activities, so you don’t get bored with the same exercise routine each day. Listen to music or audiobooks as you work out and gather a group to workout with like friends or family. Studies show that forming an accountability group makes exercise more enjoyable, proving that workout buddies can help you go further.

Exploring the Link Between Exercise and Mental Health

Mental health in America has become increasingly important to monitor, and we cannot ignore the link between mental health and exercise. A growing body of research suggests that regular exercise can reduce symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress and improve overall mental health.

The statistics show that approximately 20% of Americans experience mental health conditions, a number that increased during the onset of the pandemic. Studies prove that regular workouts like running or cardio can reduce anxiety by up to 20 percent.

Behind the Numbers: Interviewing Real People

Here are real people who have overcome barriers to maintain active lifestyles:

Samantha is a stay-at-home mom with a busy schedule, trying to balance her daughters’ needs with finding time to exercise. She has found that yoga in the early morning with her daughters in the living room helps get their energy out and setting a daily goal of 5000 steps with a smartwatch.

John had trouble staying active until his buddy introduced him to fishing. He fell in love with the sport and started biking to various fishing locations.

Their insights prove that it is possible to overcome hurdles to maintain an active lifestyle.


Exercise is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. It can be challenging and difficult to work exercise into one’s daily routines, but the long-term benefits and the potential for leading a healthier life is worth the effort. Taking small steps, such as opting for walks or picking up a new physical hobby, can accumulate and translate into significant long-term improvements in overall health and well-being.

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By Happy Sharer

Hi, I'm Happy Sharer and I love sharing interesting and useful knowledge with others. I have a passion for learning and enjoy explaining complex concepts in a simple way.

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