Americans want to be fit. And expect magic to happen
More than three-quarters of U.S. adults said that being in shape and looking good were "very important" to them, the survey found. A similar number wanted to change something about their body appearance.
Many people judged themselves as "too fat," or worried that they were not physically strong enough.
Despite those feelings, only 31 percent said they make exercise a regular "habit." And 45 percent admitted they weren't active at all, according to ReportLinker, a French technology company that did the survey.
The survey, conducted online in May, included more than 500 U.S. adults. None of the results surprised exercise experts.
It's well-known that most U.S. adults fall short of physical activity recommendations, said Heather Hausenblas, a professor of kinesiology at Jacksonville University in Florida.
In fact, only about one-fifth of Americans meet exercise guidelines, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For adults, the guidelines call for 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic activity each week, along with some kind of muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days out of the week.
Both the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association say Americans should exercise for at least 30 minutes five times a week.
But if so many Americans think they're out of shape and want to look better, why aren't they exercising?
For one, body dissatisfaction is not the best motivator.
"If that's the reason you're starting to exercise, you're probably not going to stick with it," said Hausenblas, who studies physical activity and body image.
"On the other hand," she said, "if health reasons are your main motivation, you're more likely to stay active."
That's partly because the health benefits of exercise go beyond the physical. Once people make exercise routine, Hausenblas said, they may notice a "host of psychological benefits," such as feeling more energized and less stressed.
It's effects like those that can help keep people on track, agreed Dr. Pamela Peeke, an ACSM spokeswoman.
"The more that physical activity becomes a habit, and you notice how good you feel, the more you miss it when you're not active," said Peeke, a clinical assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Unfortunately, poor body image keeps some people from ever becoming active - especially women, Peeke said.
"If you feel bad about your body, the last thing you want to do is strut into a gym," she said. ■