Consumer Healthy Habits: Exercise


Health and wellness are ever-present, but they’re under an even brighter spotlight thanks to the pandemic. This four-part series examines the top ways consumers manage their health. It connects broad research findings to search trend analysis to better understand the consumer mindset and intent in our digital-first world.

Explore other topics in the series: VITAMINS  |  OTC  |  DIET & NUTRITION

Wellness has become a way of life for many, and daily practices and habits are moving people miles in terms of physical and mental benefits, sometimes literally. Exercise is second to none in the wellness dialogue, but consumers still struggle to make it an integral part of their routines and lifestyles. Let’s see who’s jump-starting their health through exercise — and how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed consumer behaviors.

Exercise frequency by generation

In a typical week, people in all age groups engage in some type of exercise, but Gen Z leads the way (88%), followed by millennials (83%) and Gen X (74%). Boomers are least likely to exercise (68%). 

Age doesn’t seem to be a limiting factor among those who exercise at least once a week. In fact, our data reveals that 17% of boomers exercise five times or more per week — comparable to the percentage of millennials and Gen Xers who do so. 


Leading the fitness pack

Who exercises most? Men and people who are married top the list. (Check out some potential benefits of getting sweaty with your partner.) They’re followed by urbanites with easy access to gyms and studios; people with more education; and those with incomes higher than $100,000 per year. 

One-quarter (24%) of adults who exercise three times a week or more have an annual household income of at least $100,000, compared with 18% of those who exercise only once or twice a week.

Exercise in the time of the pandemic

Weight management and not getting enough exercise are perpetual top concerns for Americans, and the pandemic has brought this to the forefront for many. A critical facet of health management, exercise became that much harder during stay-at-home orders — 29% of adults named lack of exercise as the greatest challenge of sheltering in place. 

For those who have remained steadfast in keeping it as a part of their lives, exercise is the No.1 method of stress relief for adults aged 25 to 44. Younger adults (aged 18 to 24) prefer sleeping as a coping method, and those 45 or older rank binge-watching TV programs or pursuing hobbies the highest.

Our survey showed that 21% of consumers — no doubt knowing the physical and mental benefits of exercise — took advantage of virtual programs to get their exercise fix while staying at home. These programs were most popular among adults aged 18 to 24 (30%) and 25 to 44 (29%).

According to our respondents who don’t exercise, the biggest barriers are that it’s hard to change habits, they lack motivation, and the cost is too high. Additionally, those who exercise less often are more likely to say they are not sure which lifestyle changes to make in order to live more healthfully. 

Information at their fingertips

People who work out more often may be more attuned to health and wellness information in their daily lives. Those who exercise three or more times per week are more likely to notice this information on a daily or weekly basis on websites (64%) versus those who work out only once or twice a week (58%). People who work out less frequently are also more engaged in this information on apps (41% versus 35%) and podcasts (21% versus 15%). About half of both groups report getting information from email newsletters.


Search trend analysis

Exercise fads are always changing, but the pandemic has truly caused consumers’ tried-and-true fitness routines to be turned upside down. Some are looking for inspiration and motivation, while others need guidance and tips on how to keep their minds and bodies in check. Healthline’s SEO experts are plugged into the search trends and insights of Healthline’s more than 92 million monthly visitors. Here are some of the breakouts we’ve seen in the past 30 days:

What’s UP Month Over Month

What’s DOWN Month Over Month

Stretching: Work-from-home and quarantine protocols have limited people’s movement. Healthline’s users are looking for “dynamic stretching,” up 122%, and “static stretching,” up 182%.

Calorie-focused workouts: In tandem with a boost in search for building muscle (see What’s UP) comes a tick down in exercises focused on burning calories. This search term is down 21%.

Muscle group workouts: Now that many gyms have reopened, people are returning to weight training. Searches for “muscle groups to work out” are up 46%.

Laziness: People are on the move! Traffic to “exercises you can do from bed” is down 14%.

Cooldown exercises: Searches for “cooldown exercises” are up 157%, which aligns with more people adding strenuous exercise back to their workout routines.

Outdoor activities: As gyms reopen and we head into the cooler months, outdoor workouts are down 21% from the previous month.

Meeting consumer demand

Healthline Media provides the clarity consumers need to live healthier, stronger lives by responding to search insights with thoughtful and relevant content. Brands and marketers would do well to meet consumers online, where they’ve demonstrated a heightened intent to learn more about their health and the healthy habits that can make a difference in their lives.

Reach out to your Healthline Media representative or email us to learn how you can take action on these insights to boost your brand.

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Sources: Healthline Media Health and Wellness Landscape Segmentation Study, representative of U.S. adults N = 1,533, conducted by Shapiro + Raj, February 2020. Google Analytics, August - September 2020.

About Healthline Media

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