Women are more focused on nutrition than men are, and women are more likely to exercise specifically to lose weight than men, according to a survey by Murphy Research, featured in the report “State of Our Health: Exploring Gender Differences in Food and Fitness.”
Seventy-two percent of women in the survey are engaged with nutrition, meaning they keep a food log; take vitamins, minerals or supplements; use a smartphone app to track diet; talk to family, friends or doctors about diet; follow a specific diet; or read healthy food and healthy lifestyle content. Sixty-eight percent of men are engaged with nutrition.
Sixty-one percent of women are engaged with fitness, meaning they exercise, wear a fitness tracker or use a smartphone app to track physical activity weekly or more. Sixty-six percent of men are engaged with fitness.
In addition, 20 percent of women are only engaged with nutrition compared to 14 percent of men. On the other hand, 12 percent of men are only engaged in fitness compared to 9 percent of women. Fifty-four percent of men are engaged in both nutrition and fitness compared to 52 percent of women. The greater focus on physical activity for men may stem from childhood. Fifty-one percent of men recalled being encouraged early in their childhoods to participate in sports while only 34 percent of women recall the same early encouragement.
Women are more likely to remember struggling with their weight growing up than men are, the survey found. Forty percent of women recall a weight struggle while 36 percent of men do. That struggle may carry on into their adulthood, as weight is the primary focus for more women than men. Forty-four percent of women exercise specifically to lose weight while 34 percent of men do, according to the survey.
According to the report: “Women’s early focus on weight and diet likely sets them up for an approach to health that feels like a struggle, making their goals harder to achieve. They need more positive reasons to engage with fitness.”
Men are more likely to view nutrition as a way to support their fitness goals while women’s nutrition goals are more wide-ranging and less likely to focus on supporting their physical health, according to the qualitative data collected.
Gender differences also can be seen in personal priorities related to physical health and nutrition. When asked to select their personal priorities, men were more likely to prioritize fitness while women were more likely to prioritize managing weight, improving diet, improving appearance, managing stress and anxiety, and spending quality time with friends and family.
Quantitative data for the survey was collected online from 1,000 U.S. respondents aged 13 years and older per month from July 2018 to September 2021. Qualitative data was collected from people aged 18 to 64 years old in five-day, in-depth ethnographic engagements via research-based app in which respondents completed a variety of tasks using an intuitive, social media-style app that allowed for high levels of consumer engagement in situ and in the moment. All respondents were considered fitness-engaged and nutrition-engaged.