Though 71% of U.S. adults agree that best way to lose weight is through exercise, they are less interested in controlling daily calories, survey says

SUNNYVALE, California and NEW YORK , March 13, 2012 (press release) – As evidence that the economy has taken a toll on Americans, more than three-quarters of adults (78%) would rather pack on ten extra pounds versus taking on $10,000 of debt according to a new survey from Yahoo! Health and Reader’s Digest, which is publishing its new book, The Digest Diet, this month. Even more shocking: When the weight increased to 50 pounds, almost half of adults (46%) would rather gain weight to avoid debt. The exclusive survey asked 2,000 women and men about diet, exercise, and body image behaviors.

And for those Americans who want to shed extra pounds no matter their financial situation, many may have erroneous beliefs on how to do it. Though 71 percent of adults agree that the best way to lose weight is through exercise, they are less interested in controlling daily calories. 71% of adults do cardio workouts, and 58% think cardio workouts are the best way to burn fat. However, as discussed in The Digest Diet, science shows that exercise without the right diet plan leads to only a modest 3% reduction in total body weight. Reader’s Digest’s new book also discusses recent research that shorter, interval training that requires intense bursts of activity interspersed with short periods of rest may be more effective at burning fat than steady aerobic exercise.

See all the results in the April 2012 issue of Reader’s Digest, on stands March 13th, 2012, and online at Yahoo! Health and Reader’s Digest Online. Highlights from the findings are below.

Motivation for weight loss

More than two in five adults, and 51% of women surveyed, are currently trying to lose weight. 62% of those surveyed said they have attempted to lose weight over the last five years.

What is motivating this weight loss?

* 70% (65% men, 74% women) want to get (or feel) healthy. The second most common reason: wanting more energy (54% of those surveyed.)
* When it comes to social pressure, a majority of women (63%) noted wanting to be more attractive and 50% of women stated they were motivated after seeing a bad picture of themselves.

What impacts how you feel about your body

How clothes fit (36%) and the image in the mirror (30%) have the most impact on a woman’s view of herself, while energy levels affect how men (28%) feel about themselves. Both genders (below) say that the scale and what people say about their looks are minor factors in how they feel about their bodies:
• How my clothes fit 30%
• How I look in mirror 27%
• How much energy I have 22%
• The number on the scale 10%

Where did this weight come from?

A third of adults describe their weight gain over the last 10 years as just a slight fluctuation, and 17% say it crept up slowly despite their best efforts—a phenomenon The Digest Diet calls “fat creep.” Another 15% admit to struggling with weight all their lives.

Best ways to lose weight

Diet and exercise is generally accepted as the key to sustainable weight loss with crash dieting, eating synthetic products, and only eating meat scoring low in the survey.
• Exercising more 71%
• Eating smaller portions/in moderation 61%
• Drinking a lot of water 59%
• Restricting calories 41%
• Not eating out regularly 38%
• Eating sugar-free or fat free food items 22%
• Eating whole wheat products 22%
• Avoiding carbohydrates 22%
• Keeping a food journal 19%
• Joining a program 15%
• Eating organic products 11%
• Skipping meals 7%
• Eating only a vegetarian diet 7%
• Eating only a meat/protein diet 6%
• Eating synthetic products 5%
• Crash dieting 3%

Exercise is vital—but there are missed opportunities

Cardio is the most common type of exercise (71%), followed by strength training at 42%. No surprise, men and young adults (ages 18-49) are more likely than women to do strength training. Most adults, especially those ages 50+, believe cardio is the workout that burns the most fat.

What type of exercise do you do?
• Cardio 71%
• Strength training 42%
• Interval training 17%
• Yoga or Pilates 15%
• Group exercise 11%
• Other 13%

How hard do you push yourself when working out?

When working out, 29% of adults push themselves “a lot,” while (59%) admit to pushing themselves “a little,” and few (13%) push at all. Men and younger adults (ages 18-49) push themselves the most.

Common excuses for not working out
• I have less energy 49%
• I have less free time 40%
• Can’t afford gym membership/don’t have equipment 21%
• Work is more important to me than working out 18%
• Spouse/significant other isn’t active, so neither am I 16%
• Looking better is less of a priority now 10%
• I have given up on getting stronger 9%
• I don't currently have a personal trainer 9%
• Doctor/medical professional recommended it 7%
• I can maintain my weight just from dieting 7%
• Being healthy is less of a priority now 6%

Groundbreaking advice on weight-loss

In her latest book, The Digest Diet, bestselling author Liz Vaccariello, Reader’s Digest editor-in-chief and chief content officer, has expertly selected the best fat-releasing foods, moves, and habits that simplify the way people can approach sustainable weight loss. The book is available now at Vaccariello will also provide commentary on health and diet issues for Yahoo! Health in her new blog, Losing It With Liz.

Full survey results available by request.

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Readers should consult their physician before beginning any new diet or exercise program.

About the Survey:

Yahoo! partnered with Ipsos MediaCT to conduct the Yahoo! Health Survey in November 2011. We interviewed n=2,000 Americans ages 18 to 64 representative of the U.S. online population via an online quantitative survey.

About Yahoo!

Yahoo! is the premier digital media company, creating deeply personal digital experiences that keep more than half a billion people connected to what matters most to them, across devices and around the globe. And Yahoo!’s unique combination of Science + Art + Scale connects advertisers to the consumers who build their businesses. For more information, visit the pressroom ( or the company’s blog, Yodel Anecdotal (

About Reader’s Digest

Reader’s Digest simplifies and enriches consumers’ lives by discovering and expertly selecting the most interesting ideas, stories, experiences and products in health, home, family, food, finance and humor. Recognized by 99% of American adults, Reader’s Digest is available in print; online at; via digital download on iPad, mobile apps, Kindle, Kindle Fire, Nook, Sony Reader and Zinio; books and home entertainment products; Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.

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