For nine out of 10 people, exercising makes them feel better than surfing through social media.
That's one of the findings of an annual health and wellness survey conducted by Minnesota-based Life Time. The survey covers a range of issues from reality — fitness goals tied to New Year's resolutions — to fantasy. Forget your dream dinner guest, who's your dream workout partner?
(For the record, actor Dwayne Johnson, the former pro wrestler known as the Rock, came in first, being listed by 19% of the respondents. At 15%, actress Jennifer Aniston came in second, edging out singer Jennifer Lopez, who scored 13%.)
As for the overwhelming preference for exercising over going online — an answer given by 88% of the people — there probably are multiple reasons, said Anika Christ, a personal trainer, registered dietitian and certified sports nutritionist for Life Time.
For one thing, exercise helps burn off tension, while surfing the internet often does just the opposite.
"There are a lot of things [on social media] that create stress," Christ said. "Limiting screen time is a big topic with our clients."
She thinks that the COVID-mandated closings of gyms in 2020 helped remind people what they were missing while sitting and scrolling at home.
"When the fitness centers reopened, people got a chance to feel the energy again," she said. "They were excited to move their bodies again."
Plus, for many people, the pandemic's stay-at-home directives combined inactivity with easy access to kitchen cabinets filled with high-calorie snacks, a fusion that resulted in weight gain. Originally referred to as "the COVID 15" because the average weight gain was 15 pounds, it eventually became "the COVID 20" and then "the COVID 25."
And no demographic was immune.
"We're seeing millennials who are worrying about their weight for the first time," she said. "We're not used to seeing that with 20- and 30-year-olds. That was something their parents' generation worries about."
A survey question about fitness goals for 2022 found that weight loss was the top overall objective, being listed by 31% of the respondents. Building muscle (22%) was second, followed by a tie between moving more and eating better (13%). Improving one's mental health (11%) was next on the list, a development that Christ was pleased to see.
"There's much greater acceptance around the whole issue of mental health," she said, which also might be a byproduct of the pandemic. "There are more people telling us, 'I feel anxious. I'm depressed. I need help here.'
"We [Life Time] have a meditation app now. Five years ago, if I'd written an article about meditation, no one would have read it. It's great to see people reaching out. Your mental health is everything. You have to start there."
One survey revelation that Christ was not pleased to see? People are reporting getting less sleep. At 44%, six to seven hours a night was the most common response.
"The amount of sleep people are getting continues to go down," she said. "I understand that. There's more stress. People are staying up late watching TV. We know that we need more sleep, yet people are getting less and less.
"That's not good. Sleep is our most critical element of nutrition."
January tends to be a busy time at fitness centers as people tackle their New Year's resolutions to get off the couch and focus more on fitness. Christ is looking forward to the crowds.
"I love the energy that January brings," she said. "There's fresh motivation in the air."