AARP Research

2016 Survey on Physical Activity

En español | AARP conducted a survey among adults age 40+ to gauge the extent to which they are engaging in exercise and the types of activities in which they are engaging.  This study also sought to understand the barriers to exercise and the relationship between exercise and brain health.

Key findings include:

  • Most 40+ adults see the benefits to engaging in physical activity and do not find it particularly unpleasant or difficult.  For example, three quarters believe exercise would improve their health, physical fitness, and quality of life.   

  • While an overwhelming majority of adults see the benefits of exercise, only half (56%) are engaging in some form of exercise.  Furthermore, only 34% are meeting recommendations calling for 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous activity.

  • Walking is the most common form of exercise reported with 53% of 40+ adults saying they walk for exercise.  A smaller percentage is engaging in more vigorous activity such as strength training/weight training (15%) or running/jogging (8%). The top barriers to exercise are highly varied; however, the most commonly reported barriers to exercise are a lack of enjoyment and will power.

  • Having willpower, enjoying exercise, identification as an “exerciser” and feeling like you have the energy to exercise are the key factors that differentiate exercisers from non-exercisers.

  • The most common leisure activity that 40+ adults would give up if they were to engage in exercise is watching TV/streaming movies (65%).

  • Those 40 and older who exercise are much more likely to rate their brain health higher compared to non-exercisers.

  • Those 40 and older who exercise are much more likely to say their mental abilities have increased over the last five years (e.g., memory, ability to pay attention, decision-making, etc.) compared to non-exercisers.

Interviews were conducted online among 1,530 adults age 40+ using GFK’s Knowledge Panel from April 29-May 15, 2016.  Additional interviews were conducted among African American/Black, Hispanic/Latino, and Asian adults age 40+.  The data was weighted to reflect Current Population Survey and American Community Survey benchmarks.  For more information, contact Chuck Rainville at or (202) 434-6295.  For media inquiries, contact Greg Phillips at or (202) 434-2544.

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