Exercise may now be more about the mental health benefits than getting into shape.
A survey of more than 2,200 people in the UK asked for their main motivation for keeping physically active.
More than half – 54 per cent – said it was to aid their mental health, with exercise known to release ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins.
In comparison, just 49 per cent of people gave their main motivation as wanting to get in shape.
The survey, commissioned by not-for-profit fitness industry organisation ukactive, found three-quarters of people are unaware of the recommended level of exercise they should be getting.
The physical activity guidelines from the UK Chief Medical Officers say adults should do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity, like brisk walking or cycling, every week.
More than half of Brits surveyed – 54 per cent – said they exercised to aid their mental health, with physical activity known to release ‘feel-good’ hormones called endorphins
But 75 per cent of people surveyed thought the recommended amount of moderate exercise is much lower.
Almost 40 per cent thought 90 minutes a week of moderate-intensity physical activity is sufficient, according to the survey released today (WED) on National Fitness Day.
More positively, the poll conducted by Savanta found people are aware of the benefits of exercise, with 86 per cent agreeing that keeping physically active can help prevent various illnesses and injuries.
As the NHS faces a record waiting list of 7.7 million people, almost a quarter of those surveyed said they were currently awaiting NHS treatment, among whom seven per cent had a current gym membership.
National Fitness Day sees free activities being hosted in gyms, leisure centres, sports clubs, schools and workplaces across the UK, as well as online. Huw Edwards, chief executive of ukactive, said: ‘More people are recognising the incredible mental benefits of being active in their daily lives, not just the physical rewards.
‘These findings show the huge opportunity to ease our nation’s mental and physical health crisis if we can raise awareness of the importance of physical activity alongside better nutrition and ensure everyone has the chance to be active.’
Sports Minister Stuart Andrew said: ‘Sport and physical activity are hugely beneficial to our mental and physical health, which is why we are aiming to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030.
‘We’re determined to drive up participation, and that starts with 150 minutes of exercise a week for adults and 60 minutes a day for young people.’