Why Men Don’t Exercise

For the last few decades there has been a significant emphasis on the importance of physical exercise. It has been highlighted that lack of exercise and obesity can lead to many serious and life threatening diseases. Despite this, there are still a substantial number of people who do not partake in physical activity, and this seems to be a particularly common problem among men. Studies show that there can be a significant decrease in these life threatening diseases simply by partaking in a regular exercise program 1).This article will look at the question of why men, or in more specific terms, married and single men do not participate in physical exercise. This will be achieved by analysing data which is in the form of questions and answers given by a group of married and single men.

Previous Studies

Some studies have attributed the reason for some men not exercising to body image, and that women seem to place a greater emphasis on how they look which in turn helped them feel better about themselves 2). Another study also indicated that men were less likely to exercise for the reason of body image, although exercising and better health lead to an increase in self-esteem 3). However, could this be the solitary reason men are less likely to exercise? Some more recent studies also mention that there are other factors for this, such as work and family commitments, especially after marriage. Some other reasons given are lack of time, which can be linked to the aforementioned reasons, lack of interest; it appears that some men have an attitude that exercise needs to be intense in order to have benefits; motivation, or lack of, and financial constraints; such as gym fees and personal trainers 4). It is crucial that the message should keep being spread, and that the correct research is conducted as Australia is fast becoming one of the most obese countries on the planet. Some of the questions that need to be raised include the reason as to why some men are not exercising, what are the possible implications of this and what can be done in order to raise awareness and participation in exercise in the future.


The method of qualitative research is based on obtaining data which provides qualitative information rather than quantitative information, which is based generally on empirical data. Qualitative research focusses on obtaining deeper meanings and is usually based on a smaller sample size in comparison to quantitative research. This method can be used for many reasons, but is best used to gain an insight into the participant’s views and opinions in their own words without being limited to set frameworks 5). Some of the advantages in qualitative research are said to be more understandable to people who are not familiar with statistical analysis, has a greater ‘personal’ touch by allowing views and opinions, can help to measure change over time and provides a better opportunity to understand people’s wishes and objectives. There are several methods of conducting qualitative research, including in depth interviews, where the participant is asked a series of in-depth questions. This process can take anywhere between half an hour and up to seven hours, and is generally recorded and then transcribed. This method is usually used where the numbers of participants are low 6).

The data which will be analysed in this article will be based on a series of short interviews conducted on married and single men. Some other methods of qualitative research includes focus groups, which are similar to the in depth interview but conducted in groups of 5 to 12, participant observation where the person conducting the research actually participates in the group that is being studied, textual analysis in which the researcher analyses different forms of text or media, biographical research which focusses on life histories and ethnography which can use a combination of all above techniques 7). This article will use three types of coding: Open, axial and selective. Open coding identifies and categorises common concepts that run through the participants, axial coding identifies and common themes and then categorises them and finally selective coding compares and identifies and differences or similarities.

Data Collection

In the data, a series of similar questions were asked to 14 people in total, 7 of whom were married and 7 who were single. The age ranges varied from 25 to 58 for the married men and 18 to 45 for the single men. Some of the common themes that became evident for the married men were relaxing, time, family commitments, fatigue and television. The men placed an emphasis on coming home tired after work and wanting to relax and unwind. They also stated that they struggled to find the time to participate in physical activity and that family commitment also played a role in this. Many of the participants also mentioned that fatigue played a role, and that they would often be tired or exhausted after a long day at work and would just like to be able to sit down and watch television and relax.


In the answers given by the single men, some of the common themes to emerge were social involvement, time, relaxation, work commitments and weight issues. Social involvement was mentioned quite often, and the participants felt that if they were involved in a social group or if that their friends also participated they would also feel more inclined to participate. Time and work commitments also emerged as a common theme, participants often said that they would prefer to come home and relax after work rather than go and exercise. Another theme that emerged in some of responses was the issue of weight. Many of the men said that they did not feel it was necessary to exercise as they were not overweight, even though they acknowledged that physical exercise would be of a benefit to their health.

When the married men were asked why they did not participate in physical exercise, seven common reasons emerged as follows –

  • Time – The men stated that they simply could not find the time to participate in physical exercise
  • Age – Many of the men felt that their age was a restricting factor.
  • Injury – Previous injuries kept them from exercising.
  • Family – The men felt that family commitments were of a higher priority.
  • Money – There was a concern that exercising was expensive.
  • Motivation – They stated that a lack of motivation was a big factor.
  • Work – Work commitments and long hours meant that exercising was not a priority.

The most common reason given by married men as to why they do not exercise was time. The second most common reason was work commitments, as per Graph 1.1 below –


When the single men were asked why they did not participate in physical exercise, four main reasons emerged as the most common as per follows:

  • Time – Many of the participants stated that lack of time was an inhibiting factor.
  • Motivation – They found it hard to get motivated to do exercise.
  • Money – They believed that it was too expensive to exercise.
  • Work – Work commitments were also a factor.

The most common reason that single men did not exercise was lack of motivation. The second most common reason was time constraints, as per Graph 1.2 below:


When comparing the responses between the married and single men, time was the most common theme. The participants talked about how they would like to exercise more, but could not due to time restraints. This time constraint was attributed mainly to work commitments, and there was a desire to go home and relax instead of exercising. This was a theme that was prevalent across both groups. Motivation also was a theme common to both groups, with many respondents stating that they found it hard to gain motivation to exercise. Some of the men stated that if their friends were to exercise or at least try and encourage them to exercise they would be more inclined to join in also. The cost of exercising also was a factor in both married and single men; however this was slightly more prevalent with the single men.

The reason for this could be that the single men generally came from a younger sample size, so it is possible that they are relatively new to their chosen professions and earning less money. Whilst work commitments were stated as reasons for not exercising in both the married and single men, it was more prevalent in the married men. This could be attributed to due to the married men having families and possibly mortgages; they feel like they need to be committed to their jobs in order to be able to fulfil these commitments. Some of the single men also mentioned weight, or how they felt they did not need to exercise because they felt that they were not overweight and did not need to. This was a theme that emerged from single men only, as was the concept of social involvement, where the single men thought exercise would be a good way to get involved in social groups and make new friends.

In the responses from married men, there were certain reasons given that did not occur in the responses from the single men. Some of the married men stated that they could not find time to exercise due to family commitments, such as taking their kids to sports, social events or simply just spending what they felt was their limited time with their families. Injuries were also given as reasons by some of the married men, and this was not mentioned at all by the responses given by the single men. Some of the men felt that previous injuries inhibited them from exercising, and one respondent in particular (Les, married, age unknown) felt that he had no hope of ever exercising again due to injuries. Another reason given by married men that did not occur in the responses by single men was age. Some of the men thought that they were simply too old to participate in physical exercise, either because the sports they like to play are too physical for their age such as playing rugby or one respondent who felt that he was too old because he did not see people his age participate in physical activity (James, married, 55 years old).


In conclusion, this article has discussed the question of why men, and in particular, married and single men do not participate in physical exercise. Whilst some of the literature reviewed mentioned body image and self-esteem, it is evident that these were not the main reasons given by the men who participated in this research. Both groups of men found that the lack of time and motivation played a significant role in their lack of exercise, and this appeared to be the most common reason. These reasons seemed to tie in with some of the other reasons given, such as family and work commitments, as the men felt that their priorities lied with these commitments. The cost of exercising was also a common reason, and this was more prevalent in the single men, and this could be attributed to career status as they were in a younger age bracket and likely to be earning less money. Age and injury were also given as reasons, but by married men only. This could be seen as going hand in hand as it is likely that as people get older they will become more prone to injury and are more likely to have long term concerns.


In considering the responses given by the participants mentioned in this article, it is evident that more research needs to be conducted on this issue. The relevant government and health authorities need perhaps to raise more awareness on the importance of physical activity and try to encourage participation by implementing certain programs. These programs could be in the form of short group activities in local parks and community centres and kept as low in cost as possible. This would alleviate some of the concerns raised, such as time and money. These programs could also help to encourage and motivate men to participate, especially if they were designed to be fun and also categorised into higher and lower intensity to cater for age and injury restrictions. There could also be a greater emphasis on education and advertising, highlighting that exercise is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, not just to lose weight.


Jones, R. 2010, ‘Exercise and Health’, British Journal of General Practice, vol. 60, pp. 553-632
Davis, C. & Cowles, M. 1991, ‘Body Image and Exercise: A Study of Relationships and Comparisons Between Physically Active Men and Women’, Sex Roles, vol. 25, nos. 1-2, pp. 33-44
Strelan, P. & Hargreaves, D. 2005, ‘Reasons for Exercise and Body Esteem: Men’s Responses to Self-Objectification’, Sex Roles, vol. 53, nos. 7-8, pp. 495-503
Better Health Channel 2012, Physical activity – men, Victorian Government (online), Available: http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Men_and_physical_activity 17th March, 2013]]
5) , 6) , 7)
Veal, A.J. 2006, ‘Qualitative Methods’ in Research Methods for Leisure and Tourism, 3rd ed., Pearson, Essex, England, pp. 193-228

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