A survey conducted by Garage Gym Reviews shows the reasons why people began training in 2023 were as diverse as the ages, genders and incomes of the survey's participants. The analysis was done on people who train at home, at a local fitness center or commercial gyms. It's a timely survey, since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows us that only 28% of Americans are meeting the physical activity guidelines set by the agency.
Yet, 61% of those polled in the survey do not actually complete their fitness requirements in a commercial gym setting. Most will use their home gym, have manual labor jobs or do physically demanding chores around the home to achieve their fitness requirements.
Amongst those who are meeting their physical fitness requirements, here are the reasons behind their training, the preferences of different age and gender groups and what you need to know about these trends.
1. Strength training is big with young people
It is the most popular form of training for the age group of 25-34. Younger people who train like to get stronger but will, in their later lives, quit lifting when they need it the most.
2. Cardio training is the most popular with elderly
For seniors over 60 years of age, the biggest preference is a cardio workout. Cardio is great for cardiovascular health, weight maintenance and medical blood work tests. However, adding some form of strength training is also recommended, especially while we age and reduce bone mineral density, posture and durability.
3. Middle-age Americans prefer a mix
A combination of strength and cardio is the preferred training method for the age group of 31-42. A combination of strength, cardio and flexibility training is wise not only when you are younger but especially as you age.
For stronger muscles, bones and spine, add load-bearing/lifting activity. If you prefer yard work, use the wheelbarrow, lift and drag bags of mulch. This kind of work can achieve the same benefits as lifting weights in a gym.
4. Most people train often
More than 43% of respondents train 3-5 days per week, and over 33% exercise 1-3 days per week.
5. The big 'why'
Why do they train? Overall health and wellness was the top listing at 78%. However, mental health is the No. 1 reason people train in the 18- to 24-year-old and 30-41 age groups. For many who train, missing days or weeks of exercise can seriously affect their mood and attitudes toward work and life.
For the older generation (60-plus years old), overall health and wellness was their main motivator for consistently getting physical each day. Mental health and fitness progress were equally important to 28% of the people questioned.
6. They use the right equipment
The top piece of fitness equipment used among those who prefer cardio are treadmills. Dumbbells were the top piece of strength training equipment used by all groups of ages and genders. The treadmill was No. 1 among the 60+ age group, which makes sense, given their go-to activity: walking.
Recently, I did my crowd-sourced research on the topic that motivated people to train. Here are some of the answers and similarities:
7. Fitness is a family affair
If you had family members who led by example, you likely joined in on workout time with older siblings or parents. From running marathons to lifting weights, the people who responded said they still train and their parents still train well into their 70s and 80s.
8. Martial arts and sports are big
Many younger athletes soon realize they can get bigger and stronger by adding extra workouts to their training and competition goals. Building discipline, self-confidence and the ability to defend yourself, if needed, are some of the ever-lasting benefits of training in martial arts.
9. People find inspiration from celebrities
Many said they got physical because of the famous people who inspired them. How many of you started lifting because Arnold Schwarzenegger made himself known to the world? He set the standard for many, from his Mr. Olympia titles to roles like "Conan the Barbarian" -- and we followed.
A health scare can motivate many to get moving. My neighbor said, "Being diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, I took off 112 pounds. Thanks again for all the motivation and 'never quit' attitude."
One of my favorites came from an active-duty military member who told me, "[During] my first enlistment at 21, [I was a] stout farm kid with no formal athletic training. I think your Military.com articles were some of the first things I ever discovered online about training for this type of thing. This was back in 2008!"
There are many reasons why we start and continue to train. I recommend finding one, especially if you are among the 72% of Americans who do not meet the fitness standard of 150 minutes a week of movement. Walk or bike in 10-minute spurts a few times a day to get started, and soon it will evolve into more rigorous activities as you build your abilities and confidence.
Give yourself a week, and you will change the way you feel. Give yourself a month, and you will change how you look. Give yourself a year, and you will change your life -- for life.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL, fitness author and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to email@example.com.
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