Many of my regular readers and social media followers will know that I’m quite a nerd when it comes to fitness and nutrition.
But this post is not going to be a giant yawn that only mathematicians would enjoy.
Under strict supervision from my less nerdy teammates, I think we have managed to gather some very interesting data about health trends, exercise, and diet statistics, as well as overall industry trends.
It’s all nicely broken down into four parts, and there’s a lot of visual help to make it simple to understand.
Part 1: The Current Shape Of People’s Health And Fitness
This is the section that actually started off this mini project. Our team here at Total Shape work with people from all walks of life, and some of the greatest enjoyment we get is seeing clients who finally achieve their fitness and weight goals.
However, in the past couple of years, we have found that we increasingly see younger and older people who have significant health issues.
Here’s what our research revealed.
5 Of The Most Concerning Health Trends
1 - Healthy Eating Statistics
While you might constantly hear about friends, family, and colleagues doing the latest and greatest diet, for the majority of people, healthy eating is not a reality of life.
The worrying thing is that you don’t have to spend every day eating junk food from a fast food outlet to end up with a diet that could be doing a lot of damage.
Studies have shown that even the food we choose to cook at home does not have the right balance of macro and micronutrients.
Let me highlight the 5 most worrying things I spotted :
- Over 80% of Americans eat less than the recommended amount of vegetables
- Over 70% of Americans eat less than the recommended amount of fruit
- 70% of Americans consume too much added sugar
- 70% of Americans consume too much saturated fat
- 90% (Yes Ninety!) of Americans consume too much sodium
And, when you look at the data broken down by gender , it’s men across all ages that are leading in a negative way.
That might just explain why male life expectancy is considerably lower. If you are a male, and don't want to contribute to this statistic, take a look at what longevity researcher Dr. Peter Attia recommends in terms of diet and supplements.
American adults consume an average of 77 grams of sugar per day, more than 3 times the recommended amount for women.
2 - Healthy Lifestyle Statistics
Let me start with defining a healthy lifestyle. And for this, I got some information from one of my favorite resources at the Mayo Clinic.
During a 2016 study, they defined a healthy lifestyle with these 4 characteristics :
- Being a non-smoker
More than 150 minutes per week of physical activity
- Men with body fat of less than 20% and women less than 30%
- Ranking in the top 40% of the Healthy Eating Index 
During this study, researchers found that only 2.7% of the test group met all 4 of these characteristics. And let’s face it, these aren’t data points that would require you to be a high-performance athlete.
Here is the detailed data breakdown:
- 71.65 were non-smokers
46.5% got enough exercise
- 37.9% were considered as eating healthy
- 9.6% had an acceptable body fat
What’s not surprising to me is the number of people who are overweight and inactive. But I really expected the number to meet all 4 to be higher.
3 - Mental Well Being Statistics
When it comes to health and fitness, there is still a huge focus on physical health. But mental health can pose some real debilitating issues.
And in some cases, it’s mental health issues that cause physical health problems.
One of the things I always highlight to my clients is that they shouldn’t just focus on the weighing scales or the size of their muscles.
There are some very interesting studies that have broken down mental health by gender, ethnicity, and economic background. But I thought it would be better to paint an overall picture .
Here is the percent of Americans that suffer from a mental health problem:
- 26.3% aged 18 to 25
- 22.5% aged 26 to 49
- 14% aged over 50
What I found even more interesting, though, is the relationship between exercise and mental health . Over 43% of people involved in the study reported fewer days of poor mental health when they exercised 3 times per week for 45 minutes.
That’s barely 2 1/2 hours with such a significant impact.
4 - Workplace Wellness Statistics
The one thing most people associate most with workplaces is stress and anxiety.
And there are very good reasons for that.
With over 80% of Americans suffering from work-related stress , only 43% of them believe that the companies they work for care about their work-life balance.
But stress is more than a mental state of mind.
There are real human costs here that people have to be aware of.
5 - Regular Exercise Statistics
I was debating about starting this section with the following data, but I thought I’d ease you into this troubling topic.
The US Government maintains statistics about physical activity and has created a great page that highlights some facts .
Let me pull out the most troubling things:
Only 33% of children are physically active every day
- Over 80% of adults don’t get enough aerobic exercise
- 28% of those over age 6 are classified as physically inactive
- Children now spend more than 7 hours a day in front of a digital screen
- Less than 5% of adults get more than 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
Oh, and on that last point, I should point out that physical activity is not defined as a trip to the gym. It actually includes walking as part of your everyday life as well.
But why are these statistics so worrying?
With heart disease being the number one cause of death in the USA , it’s important to understand that a Kansas State University study concluded that 37% of Americans have some form of heart disease .
Add to that the alarming statistic that 34% of Americans suffer from high blood pressure, and another 36% have a higher than normal blood pressure.
Let’s get to some of the underlying issues.
The Main Causes Of This Alarming Trend
Now, I’m pretty sure there are dozens of problems that lead to the health and fitness problems highlighted above. I won’t claim to be an expert on them all, so instead I will focus on the area that I’m professionally involved in.
Here are the main causes I took away from all the data above.
1 - Lack Of Physical Activity During The Day
Before I start coming up with training plans for my clients, I always get them to walk me through their typical day.
And I also ask for any activity tracking data they may have from a smartwatch or phone.
I mentioned above that studies have shown that 28% of Americans over age 6 are classified as physically inactive.
Unfortunately, from my client interaction, I would have to confirm that. It wouldn’t be unusual for people to show less than 1,000 steps taken per day.
Yes, that low! So many people are taking less than 100 steps in the morning to get to their car. Then they use the elevator in the office and spend 8 hours at their desk before doing the same on the way home.
It’s this lack of activity that is a major contributor to so many health problems. At the same time, some people manage to make up for their lack of movement during the day by going to the gym or fitness classes.
But those people are few and far between.
2 - Lack Of Targeted Regular Exercise
This is an area where even I was shocked. I mentioned above that less than 5% of adults get more than 30 minutes of physical activity each day.
More worryingly, over 80% of adults don’t get enough aerobic exercise. And guess what?
Essentially, it’s the one way you could be ensuring that you avoid some of the most concerning health problems mentioned above.
Now, let’s take a closer look at exercise trends.
Part 2: Physical Exercise Trends And Statistics
As a fitness coach, I have seen trends away from the traditional gym workout, with more people moving towards fitness classes like CrossFit, Spinning, as well as yoga and pilates.
But there has also been a shift towards a growing number of people choosing to exercise at home.
So, to get a better picture of how folks are choosing to get some exercise, I went digging for some supporting data.
What Forms Of Exercise Are People Choosing?
I’ve broken this down into the 3 most common ways that people are choosing to get active.
1 - Gym Membership
According to a report I read a few weeks ago, there were 62.5 million gym members in America in 2018 . Just imagine what would happen if they all started turning up.
That same report also reveals that only about 18% head to the gym with any kind of regularity.
This results in an estimated $1.8 billion worth of unused gym memberships.
It sounds like an awfully large missed opportunity if you ask me.
2 - Exercise And Fitness Classes
You’ve most likely noticed that gyms have changed a lot in the past ten years. The majority of them now focus a lot of attention on group classes. What I found particularly interesting is what types of classes people are choosing the most.
Here is some data I found :
In my own experience, I have noticed that more and more people are trying to take advantage of classes or other types of group exercises.
And it makes sense, as with other people around you, there will be more motivation.
3 - Home Exercise
What I’m referring to here is everything from online fitness videos, to mobile apps and online group exercising like Peloton.
It’s amazing to see how Internet technology has been able to create an entirely new fitness niche.
According to some sources I found, the number of Americans exercising at home remained roughly the same between 2006 and 2013 at about 25 million .
Unfortunately, there’s no reliable data I could find about more recent developments. From my own experience and given the big changes through smartphone technology, I would imagine that this number has risen, though.
Scientifically Proven Benefits Of Regular Physical Activity
Now that you have seen real data about how unhealthy people are, and the concerning statistics about people’s lack of physical activity, it’s time to look at some scientific research about the benefits of exercising.
1 - Weight Loss And Management
Here’s what I tell my clients all the time: Anyone can lose weight; it’s keeping it off that is the hard part.
While there are countless studies that show how exercise is directly linked to weight loss, I did find one study that looked at how exercise also led to an increased resting metabolic rate .
Basically, your body will keep burning calories long after you finish your workout.
And when it comes to maintaining your new weight, studies have shown that one of the best ways is to combine aerobic exercise with resistance training .
2 - More Energy Throughout The Day
This might sound counter-intuitive. You’d think that all the energy you burn during a workout would make you feel tired.
But quite the opposite is the case.
Now, it is true that immediately after a gym session, your muscles will feel tired. But with the right recovery nutrition, that will quickly change.
Your body will also replenish your blood sugar, ketones, and glycogen quite quickly. And because it is expecting this increased physical activity to happen more often, additional energy is made readily available throughout the day .
3 - Improve Muscle Tone And Strength
It’s kind of obvious that exercise will strengthen your muscles, but not many people are aware of the link to increased bone density.
Here’s what happens.
As your muscles and metabolism come under more strain, your body reacts by releasing different hormones. Some of these are classified as growth hormones, and they quite literally tell your muscles to create more fibers.
But those same hormones have also been proven to influence the development of bone tissue .
4 - Impacts Mood And Mental Health
Throughout the western world, the rates of depression, anxiety, and many other mental health problems are rapidly rising.
While it has become more acceptable to openly talk about these things, the go-to solution predominantly seems to be medication.
Through some work I have done with clients suffering from depression and research into this area, I firmly believe that one of the easiest things to combat mental health issues is to resort to more physical exercise.
Put simply: Exercise directly affects the brain. Regular exercise increases the volume of certain brain regions—in part through better blood supply that improves neuronal health by improving the delivery of oxygen and nutrients; and through an increase in neurotrophic factors and neurohormones that support neuron signaling, growth, and connections.
Sarah Gingell, Psychologist, and counselor
But what about food?
Part 3: Diet And Nutritional Statistics
A lot of the focus so far has been on physical activity and its impact on the body. But any fitness trainer will tell you that you can't out-exercise a bad diet. Some dietitians will go as far as saying that weight loss is 70% diet and 30% exercise.
Either way, this is an important topic to address.
The Problem With The Western Diet
Where do you start with this, and how do you condense it into less than a book?
The first thing I need to highlight is the fact that over the past 40 years, people have changed their shopping habits, and we have never bought more processed food.
What I found shocking is that in 1982, processed food made up only about 11.6% of grocery spending.
But by 2012, that had increased to 22.9%, making it the largest category of food that people spend money on .
And what’s the result of this?
Massive overconsumption of saturated fat and sugar. And if you ask me, I would blame sugar for far more problems than saturated fat.
Not only do these things contribute to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, but studies have also shown that they can mess up your gut flora and immune system as well .
Sugars recently also have been subject to claims that they can “disrupt the gut” or give “bad bacteria” the fuel they need to proliferate.
Allison Webster, Registered Dietitian
Lack Of Early School Education
For a long time, I was more inclined to blame advertising for the obesity epidemic, but once I started working with more kids, I noticed that very few of them had even a basic understanding of nutritional needs.
How could that possibly be?
We are constantly told that diet and nutrition are part of the K-12 curriculum, and yet my experience suggests that this simply isn’t the case.
The explanation came from the Center For Disease Control with two alarming statistics .
Firstly, students in America receive less than 8 hours of nutrition education per year. Compare that to the recommended 50 hours required to actually change their behavior.
Secondly, between 2000 and 2014, the percentage of schools teaching the required amount of nutrition classes dropped from 85.6% to 74.1%.
It sounds like a pretty good explanation for both childhood and adult obesity if you ask me.
Diet Dropout Rates
One thing the majority of people I work with have in common is that they have lost count of how many diets they started and then abandoned.
But it took a study from the Canadian Journal of Surgery to really paint a bad picture for me .
It found that even among medically treated obese people, the drop out rate from diets was 54%. Keep in mind that for medical treatment to be suggested, these patients would have faced some pretty serious health issues.
The same study also found that the dropout rate for patients who underwent bariatric surgery was only 12%. Their conclusion was that it could have a lot to do with the amount of weight these people were able to quickly drop.
That’s quite a motivating factor.
Part 4: Health And Fitness Industry Trends
All the previous sections have painted quite a gloomy picture. Certainly, from an overall health perspective, the trend is still downwards. But there are some reasons to be optimistic.
When you look at the health and wellness industry as a whole, then there are some indications that more people are consciously spending more money to become fit.
What Are The Predictions For The Health And Fitness Industry?
As a fitness coach, this question is obviously close to my heart. But I didn’t want to give you some biased and rosy vision that I have for this industry.
Instead, I looked at some real data.
1 - Gym Membership
The good news is that gym memberships are steadily increasing. Statista has some great data on the total number of memberships in the USA .
In 2000, there were 32.8 million Americans registered in gyms. That has steadily grown to almost double or 60.87 million in 2017. There is also no reason to suggest such a trend won’t continue.
One reason I believe this has been so sustainable is that so many gyms these days also offer group fitness classes, which seems to suit more people.
2 - Personal Trainers And Fitness Coaches
The more people that go to gyms, the more need there is for health and fitness coaches. And a Forbes article also suggests that there is an increased demand for this profession from online streaming classes .
But the really interesting data comes from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics . It expects that the employment change for fitness trainers between 2018 and 2028 will be over 45,000.
That’s a lot of new coaches that will be needed.
3 - Home Fitness And Exercise
It has never been easier to work out at home with all the wearable fitness gadgets and online streaming solutions.
These virtual fitness classes are growing a lot, and a lot of my own clients are located hundreds and even thousands of miles away.
This form of exercise is probably more common during the winter months when people are less motivated to leave their homes in the cold and rain.
But for many people, it’s just the most convenient way to exercise.
4 - Education In Schools
In the previous section, I already mentioned that schools were letting down their students when it came to educating them on diet and nutrition.
But how do things look for physical exercise?
According to the CDC, about a quarter of all school-age children don’t participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day .
I understand that schools have a lot to teach. But when millions of kids are developing chronic illnesses due to poor diet and lack of physical activity before they become adults, then priorities seem to be misplaced.
What’s worse is that the same report highlights that only 51% of high school students attended physical education classes in an average week.
This is where I see a huge opportunity for fitness coaches to become more involved.
PE is also praised for its contribution to improved psychological health, for helping to nurture social and moral development – as well as supporting cognitive and academic performance.
Andrew Sparke, Lecturer in Physical Education.
5 - Mobile App-Based Fitness
As a bit of a tech nerd, I was also interested in finding out about health and fitness apps statistics. One prediction I found suggested that between 2017 and 2022, the number of fitness apps is expected to double in size .
The use of fitness apps is also interesting to see, broken down by age . To no surprise, it’s 18 to 45-year-olds where 25% to 29% say they use such apps regularly.
And as far as the most popular fitness apps go, here are the 3 most heavily used ones :
Fitbit: 27.4 million users MyFitnessPal: 19.1 million users S Health: 14.9 million users
- Children now spend more than 7 hours a day in front of a digital screen
6 - Sports Supplements
OK, the last item I wanted to look at was the growth trend and market predictions for sports and nutritional supplements.
One research paper suggests that the global sports nutrition market is worth over $15 billion, and is growing by 8.9% annually . It also suggests that this growth is showing no signs of slowing down.
It certainly is good news for those making supplements, but I also think it’s good news for fitness coaches. With new products becoming available, it should make it a lot easier to find the right supplements to help clients achieve their goals.
What Should You Do With All This Information?
That’s actually what a friend of mine asked me who provided me with some feedback about this article.
My answer is that it depends on who you are.
If you’re a fitness instructor, then this information should help you to better educate your clients. It might also help you to target more clients in your marketing efforts and encourage existing ones to spread the message.
If you currently suffer from some of the above health conditions, or you know someone who does, then you might be able to use this information to convince them to take some more drastic actions.
Should you have any questions or feedback about this, then feel free to reach out to our team on social media.
https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/chapter-2/current-eating-patterns-in-the-united-states/ https://health.gov/our-work/food-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/guidelines/chapter-2/a-closer-look-at-current-intakes-and-recommended-shifts/ https://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196(16)00043-4/abstract https://www.fns.usda.gov/resource/healthy-eating-index-hei https://www.statista.com/statistics/252311/mental-illness-in-the-past-year-among-us-adults-by-age-and-gender/