GALLUP: Americans Exercising Slightly More In 2012

More Americans exercised frequently in August (54.7%) than did in the same month in past years —continuing a pattern Gallup and Healthways have found through most of 2012. In every month this year, except for April, more Americans reported exercising three or more days per week than did so in the same month for each of the past four years.

Frequent Exercise in the U.S., by Month

Gallup and Healthways ask 1,000 American adults daily about their exercise habits as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Specifically, Americans report how many days in the past seven they exercised for at least 30 minutes.

The uptick in frequent exercise this year has come amid “the warmest first eight months of any year on record” in the U.S., according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Whether there is a direct relationship between these warm temperatures and higher exercise levels — or it is mere coincidence — is not certain.

However, that Americans’ exercise habits are seasonal — they work out more in the spring and summer months and less in the fall and winter — points to the weather playing a role in their likelihood of exercising.

Frequent Exercise Up in All Regions

Americans in all regions of the country were more likely to exercise frequently this August than they were in the same month in 2009, 2010, and 2011. However, residents in the East and West were no more likely to exercise frequently this August than they were in August 2008.

Bottom Line

Although frequent exercise will decline as fall and winter set in, if the current trend continues, 2012 may end up being a record year for exercise in the U.S. And, even though the changes are small, for a nation grappling with a dangerous and costly obesity issue, every little bit of movement in the right direction in terms of improving health habits can have an impact. Additionally — and ideally — as more Americans pick up better exercise habits, they could inspire or intentionally spur others to action — their coworkers, spouses, children, classmates, and neighbours.

But, if the increase in exercise is tightly tied to warmer-than-average temperatures, it is unclear whether Americans will sustain or improve upon the current higher levels in future years. Gallup and Healthways’ ongoing measurement of Americans’ exercise habits will help reveal how this plays out in the months and years ahead.

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