CHICAGO — Getting fit and healthy is a popular New Year's resolution, but U.S. consumers are finding it's not as easy as it sounds.
New research from Mintel, Healthy Lifestyles US 2015, reveals that 43 percent of Americans agree that living a modern lifestyle makes it very difficult to be healthy. Eighty percent agree that being healthy requires sacrifices.
Some of the barriers cited by consumers looking to improve their health include lack of understanding and boredom. Two in five Americans (40 percent) agree that "there is so much information on health out there, I don't know where to turn," while about one quarter (24 percent) say they get bored quickly doing the same exercises.
Mintel's research also found that barriers aside, there are misconceptions about current health status: one third of Americans aged 20 and older are obese (i.e. Body Mass Index of at least 30), yet 88 percent of adults consider themselves healthy. In addition, one third of consumers report they are very healthy, with more than two in five (44 percent) reporting they maintain a healthy weight.
"Americans believe that living a modern lifestyle impedes their ability to be healthy, with some feeling as if they're doomed to fail," said Lauren Bonetto, lifestyles and leisure analyst at Mintel.
"While technology has exponentially increased the amount of easily accessible health information, some consumers find it difficult to tell good information from bad and feel overwhelmed by what's at their disposal. It's essential for health brands to communicate the importance of reliable information — whether it be from the Internet, a healthcare professional or some other source — to ensure consumers make the best decisions for their overall wellbeing."
While nearly two in five consumers indicate there is always more they could do to be healthy, Mintel research revealed U.S. consumers are indeed taking proactive measures to achieve better health. More than half say they eat a healthy diet (52 percent) and exercise regularly (53 percent). Other actions consumers report taking in order to live a healthy lifestyle focus on relaxation (49 percent), maintaining a work/life balance (48 percent) and focusing on mental health (43 percent).
To "feel better" is the main motivation for consumers to be healthy (70 percent), followed by "be happier" (58 percent) and "look better" (55 percent).
"Consumers connect their health with overall happiness and are taking a variety of steps to improve their wellbeing, including eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly. As such, brands using messaging that emphasizes feeling better and being happier could succeed in reaching consumers on a more personal and emotional level," Bonetto said.
Age also plays a role in how consumers view their personal health and their motivations for living a healthy lifestyle. Seven in 10 millennials (69 percent) say living a healthy lifestyle is expensive (vs. 58 percent of consumers overall).
DOWN ON DIETS
As consumers struggle to live a healthy lifestyle, another Mintel research report, Diet Trends US 2015, detailed that 91 percent of U.S. consumers believe it is better to eat a well-rounded diet than use diet products.
The research found that concern over the healthiness of diet foods and drinks, as well as diets in general, is high with almost eight in 10 consumers (77 percent) agreeing that diet products are not as healthy as they claim to be. Three in five consumers (61 percent) believe that most diets are not actually healthy.
Meanwhile, nearly three-fourths of adults agree that dieting is worth the effort to achieve their ideal weight, yet just under seven in 10 acknowledge it is difficult to stick with a diet long-term.
"Consumers are somewhat skeptical about diet products and instead of purchasing traditional diet-specific products, they are turning to a well-balanced diet and products that support it. The diet industry faces downward pressure as U.S. adults remain skeptical of the ingredients in diet-specific products, their effectiveness in managing weight and the fact that in reality a magic weight loss pill likely doesn't exist," said Marissa Gilbert, health and wellness analyst at Mintel.
In addition, 80 percent of U.S. consumers acknowledge they try to eat healthily, but some indulgent foods are just too tempting. Also, 84 percent of Americans believe it is important to treat themselves to their favorite foods.
When asked about the methods and tools used for dieting, dieters (past and present) are turning to calorie restriction to manage their weight, according to the report. The second most popular dieting method is the use of meal replacement shakes and bars, followed by raw food or a vegetarian and vegan diet, a high-protein diet, a nutrition-based diet and utilizing a diet application on a mobile device.