A majority of Americans may have a complex relationship with their bodies, with
most people being unhappy with the way they look yet doing very little exercise to stay in shape, an insightful new survey into fitness has found.
As body image concerns become increasingly common among all age groups, striving for the perfect appearance was among the top reasons people turned to exercise.
But while more than half the respondents did not like their bodies (63% of mentions) and agreed exercise was a good way to keep in shape, about two thirds (69% of mentions) did not lead an active lifestyle to stay fit, the ReportLinker 2019 study found.
Self-criticism among Americans was quite high, it said. Most respondents viewed themselves as too short, too tall, too fat or too thin. A low 37% agreed they were in good shape.
In addition, 66% of respondents wanted to change something about their body, especially the millennials (75% of mentions) who were most sensitive to their body image among other age groups.
The news came on the back of a worrying poll by the Mental Health Foundation that found one in eight people aged 18 and above have been so distressed about their body image, they have had suicidal thoughts.
Some reality television programmes such as Love Island were of concern, it said, particularly those targeting younger audiences who were most likely to feel worried about their bodies.
In line with the study, ReportLinker similarly, found millennials were more likely to always compare themselves to others (25%) compared with 5% from older generations.
They were also the most attached (77%) to being good looking than people of other age groups (64%).
Among other insightful findings, the study discovered people placed their body image above health. While 53% of respondents were not concerned about their strength or muscles, a higher 67% agreed being in good shape or looking good, was very important.
On a more positive note, being healthier was the reason half of the respondents chose to play a sport or train (49% of mentions). Only 13% of respondents did so to lose weight.
The survey results also highlighted a link between exercising and healthy eating. More than half of people who exercised (58% of mentions) mentioned it motivated them to eat better too.
In terms of finding the motivation to exercise, seeking support from others such as an exercise buddy (31% of mentions) came out on top. Monitoring performances to keep up the pace of training (30% of mentions) and allowing it to become a habit (29% of mentions) followed close, the study added.
For those monitoring their own performances, a smartphone was a useful device to have on hand (29% of mentions). Unsurprisingly, wearable devices, such as connected watches were also popular (17% of mentions).
However, there was clear distinction among the sexes, with women more reluctant (78% of mentions) to play sports than men. Among those who did exercise, most preferred to do so outside (12% of mentions) or half-inside, half-outside depending on the weather (9% of mentions).
Hockey (37% of mentions) was the top sport of choice with training at a fitness center another favourite (33% of mentions). Swimming (31% of mentions) and basketball (31% of mentions) were other popular sports mentioned. On average, the active people were found to play sports for 5.6 hours per week.
Those keen on staying fit preferred to do it around office, family and other commitments, with practising in the evening after work more popular (44% of mentions) than mornings (24% of mentions). A quarter of respondents said they preferred playing sports only during the weekends (24% of mentions).
Though not enough Americans are committing to exercise, as the survey results found, it takes little to get motivated. From finding an exercise buddy or a fitness tracker, it take only a few hours a week to make a meaningful difference to your life.