by | Sep 25, 2013 | 26 comments

Earlier this week, I came across an article stating that 73% of Americans work out at least once per week, and 47% of those spend 30 minutes or more working out daily!  This really surprised (and thrilled!) me, so I decided to dig into the data a little bit more.  how often do you work out  kind of exercise

(I created the graphics, but data source is here)

For a data nerd like me, the survey results are really fun to play with!  You can cut the data many ways by playing around a bit on the site (I found it funny that those who say their relationship status is “It’s Complicated” work out the most, and Capricorns dominate the zodiac signs for exercisers!  Those who work full-time, especially those in the legal profession, also work out the most). time spent exercisingother statistics

Side note: The sample size was small (1,000 people), and people tend to make themselves look good when answering survey questions (you can tell this is true because the percent that say they don’t exercise changes across questions).  So, it’s likely that fewer people are actually exercising, but I was still positively surprised by the results of this study! do you have to choose

Believe it or not, finding out random statistics is not the whole point of this post (you can breathe your sigh of relief here!).  However, this study reminded me of another one that I found several months ago, saying that people have a set amount of time allocated to “healthy living behaviors,” and this time flexes between cooking healthy meals and working out.  So, if a person works out more during one day, they are less likely to spend time preparing healthy meals, and vice versa.  Does this surprise you?

Time is a precious resource, and if I could figure out how to give myself (and you!) more of it each day, you’d better believe I’d be doing so right now!  Since I can’t create more time in a day, though, I’ll offer just three tips to help you make time for healthy meals and exercise:

  1. Make one day your meal prep day.  If you only have a certain amount of time to spend on healthy living each day, and you need a rest day from exercising anyway, why not make Sunday (or any other day that works for you) a day to prepare easy-to-grab foods that you can enjoy all week?  This will help you avoid reaching for more-tempting/ less-healthy packaged foods, and will save time overall.
  2. Maximize your time exercising.  I’ve talked several times about the benefits of high-intensity interval training.  If you keep your heart rate up and really challenge yourself, you can get just as much benefit from a short period of time doing intervals as you can from double the time doing steady-state cardio.  (I’ll never give up my steady-state, easy runs – but a lot of this is for the mental/ stress-relief benefit, so don’t discount that either!)
  3. Make your health a priority.  We are all busy, and it can be so hard to find even 10 minutes to squeeze in something extra.  Trust me, I feel your pain, and I know how hard it is!  But even the busiest of all of us can probably find a few instances during the day when we “waste time” on activities that aren’t the highest priority for us.  If you commit to a healthy lifestyle, and truly make it a priority in your every day life, you are much more likely to make time for healthy eating and exercising.

So tell me in the comments … do you think that taking time to prepare healthy meals takes away from the time you devote to exercising, and vice versa?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, and how the time tradeoff plays out in your life!  Also, how are you doing with the Fall ResetIf you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen lots of my delicious meals … I’ve already incorporated all 12 detoxifying foods from the list!  I definitely miss my sugar, but I’m glad to be doing kicking Fall off in a healthy way.


  1. Amy @ The Little Honey Bee

    Of course I agree with all the above! I am trying to step up my food prep game because it certainly makes a huge difference when I have a great day of prep.

    • Megan Lyons

      Amy, I’m so impressed by your food prep efforts already – you’re doing great! Your food always looks delicious and healthy :).

  2. Sara @ LovingOnTheRun

    I think without a doubt meal prep helps tremendously! If you don’t have to think about what to eat and you have things planned out it makes it so much easier to stick to and not to give in to the things you shouldn’t! My Fall Reset is going well! Last night was the toughest night but I made it through and now it is a new day 🙂

    • Megan Lyons

      I’m with you on the struggles to stick to the Fall Reset last night … I literally took the ice cream out of the freezer, thought about it, and then put it back in and made some banana “froyo” :).

  3. Amy @ Long Drive Journey

    I am not at ALL surprised that people in complicated relationships exercise more. I definitely started exercising for that reason, and now I’m glad I did. I definitely think that more people EXERCISE than eat healthy. I think it’s easier to have the mentality that you’ll run however many miles to “work off” a burger than it is to just eat a healthier meal in the first place. Of course don’t get me wrong, I love burgers, haha. I also love that you made graphs and crunched this data!!

    • Megan Lyons

      I totally agree! There’s a lot of research that shows many people actually GAIN weight when they start exercising, because they think it’s a free pass to eat anything in sight even if they just worked out for a short period of time! And yes, I’m a huge loser for making the graphs, but at least I admit it!

  4. Davida @ The Healthy Maven

    Love this post! I’m a total data nerd too. Even though after staring at data all day all I do is complain 😉

    I usually dedicate one day a week to food prep and on that day it is very unlikely I will workout. I’m usually slaving in the kitchen for a few hours though so it’s pretty much HIIT lol. The rest of the days I try to workout (not right now of course) but if I haven’t meal prepped I likely will opt to cook a healthy meal rather than hit the gym. Time is precious and sometimes you have to make choices! I think it balances out in the end…or you push yourself too far like I have!

    • Megan Lyons

      Haha complain about work? I’ve never done that! ;). I agree that it balances out in the end … spending time either preparing healthy meals OR exercising is super beneficial, so give yourself a pat on the back!

  5. Karen

    I’m a Capricorn………. but fluctuate on # times/week I workout.
    But hey, right now I’m on a roll…….eating healthy AND working out.
    It feels great. Let’s hope my trend continues for a long long time. 🙂

    • Megan Lyons

      You are on a roll and I love it! I know it will continue. Great work!

  6. Robert

    It’s a great topic, and another thoughtfully written post. You always have such great ideas.

    It’s probably not a popular sentiment, but I think we make time for the things that are important to us. In all honesty we are not always as busy as we think we are. Sure we’re busy, but not too many of us are busy literally every waking moment. I think the “But I’m so busy,” argument really only comes up when we’re not 100% committed. And I’m the poster child for that. Over the last 10 weeks, I made the conscious decision to be 100% committed to being more healthy–diet and exercise both. In all honesty, I don’t have trouble fitting in 5 runs a week (even though that means running at least once (usually more) on days I work a 12 hour shift), and making sure we have whole healthy foods available, and healthy choices on the meal plan for the week. Now that I’m 100% committed, it’s not even a thought of “is it possible”, it’s a priority, so it get’s done.

    I think it’s a subtle shift in thinking, but I think the difference in vivo is huge.

    • Megan Lyons

      Thanks for sharing, Robert. I completely agree with you that being 100% committed to a healthy lifestyle is helpful/ necessary in order to fit it all in, and that almost everyone can find SOME time that they didn’t think they had. It’s super impressive that you balance a wife, kids, a full-time job, and healthy eating + exercising. And the scale + your PRs are showing the results of your commitment!

  7. GiGi Eats Celebrities

    I do NOT think that preparing takes away from exercise. Preparation is all about BALANCING the two!! And preparing = more time to work out because you prepare to get up earlier, so you can plan a meal (or cook a planned meal) and then you go work out. I have NEVER had a problem with eating very healthfully and working out regularly. In fact, I work out almost 2 hours a day and eat SUPER CLEAN, without a problem at all!

    • Megan Lyons

      Wow, that is incredibly impressive that you do it all without ever struggling! You have my envy + admiration! Good for you for fitting it all in.

  8. emily (a nutritionist eats)

    Prepping food doesn’t typically get in the way of working out, but I don’t work out 7 days a week and it doesn’t happen 100% of the time…I’m pretty easy on myself. 🙂
    I agree though, taking time to prep meals is definitely worth it!

    • Megan Lyons

      I think being a little easy on yourself is healthy, Emily! 100% doesn’t need to be the goal. Good for you for getting in your workouts and meal prep as often as you can!

  9. Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table

    This surprises me too!

    I don’t think one takes away from the other. Rather, they feed each other. If I’m working out I’m more motivated to fuel my body the right way and vice versa. It’s all about priorities and making time.

    • Megan Lyons

      The way you think is the way I would have guessed the results would pan out (people either spend time doing both, or neither), but I guess we’re oddballs! You do an amazing job at prioritizing and making time for all the food prep/ macro planning!

  10. Jillienne @ ChasingRaspberries

    I was so surprised by the results in that study! Who knew that 73% of Americans workout once a week!

    As far as balancing workouts and healthy eating, I think the only tradeoff I have made since I made a lifestyle change toward living healthy is watching less TV. I have to say, I don’t miss all the hours in front of the screen!

    • Megan Lyons

      I know, Jillienne! Fairly impressive if you ask me! Good for you for making the tradeoff away from TV. I don’t think I would even have a TV if I lived by myself … but my husband on the other hand adores TV, so I think we find a balance somewhere in the middle :).

  11. Luv What You Do

    What an interesting article! I don’t feel like my meal prep (when i do it) gets in the way of exercise, but maybe sleep : ) And other things like cleaning my house!

    • Megan Lyons

      Yikes, I feel you on the sleep … I often sacrifice sleep, too, even though I know it’s not the greatest health decision!

  12. Arman @ thebigmansworld

    I think God must me sending me a stern message- I read this post during my procrastination break of studying….statistics lol!

    Some of those numbers are really impressive- I never knew so many exercised that often- the media makes it out like the Western world are a lazy bunch! I generally set time to food prep and it doesn’t interfere with exercise!

    Regarding the Fall reset- I tried sleeping in but both times I set my alarm later, I actually woke up earlier. Drainer!

    • Megan Lyons

      Hahaha about a break from studying statistics! I do think that the Western world deserves a lot of the “lazy” reputation that we get … there’s a long way to go. BUT it’s so encouraging to see that so many people are making an effort to exercise!!

  13. Ashley @ This Is The Place

    I dont think that healthy meal prep takes away from my workout time on a regular basis. We do most of our prep on Sundays (make one dinner, prep a crockpot meal, make and pack breakfasts and lunches) so it’s not an inconvenience later in teh week. That said, I do notice it cuts into my Sunday workouts. I try to run + yoga on Sundays and often yoga gets cut so I can hit the grocery store, clean and cook. But at least it’s only one a week!

    • Megan Lyons

      I think Sunday meal prep days are a great way to kick off the week right. Good for you guys for getting it all done!


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Hi! I'm Megan Lyons,

the voice behind The Lyons’ Share. I love all things health, wellness, and fitness-related, and I hope to share some of my passion with you. Thanks for stopping by!
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