NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - If you look upon fitness addicts as shallow narcissists suffering grimly for the body beautiful, it may be time to look again.
Most dedicated exercisers view working out as their apple a day, not their path to preening perfection, a new poll shows.
Staying healthy is the reason most fit adults gave for hitting the gym, and they are doing it for the ones they love.
Even a belt-tightening economy has not led the active to skimp on their regimens, according to the survey.
"People said they exercise more for health than for anything else," said Marjorie Martin of EveryDay Health, which conducted the poll with the American Council on Fitness.
Martin said 54 percent of the 2,882 Americans who responded to the online poll said they want to stay fit for their loved ones. Only 40 percent said they work out to look good on beach.
"Some of us probably would have guessed appearance and weight control first," Martin said. "The fact that it is health was I think very reassuring,"
More than 90 percent of the people who took part in the survey by EverydayHealth, a network of health and fitness websites, were women. The average age was 44.
Over 80 percent said they exercise regularly.
"This is definitely an audience interested in health," said Martin. "Health websites skew female. But 93 percent is much higher than expected."
A surprising 79 percent said that if a magic pill existed to keep them looking trim and fit, they would still work out. Only 15 percent said they'd happily become couch potatoes.
"Most of us would have guessed otherwise," Martin said. "But exercise is a tremendous stress release. And in a tough economy people could be using it as an outlet for stress in general."
Sixty-four percent said the poor economy has not had an impact on their workouts. Just under half exercise on their own. Only 15 percent exercise at a gym only.
Only 21 percent sacrificed gym memberships.
"They did things to economize, like opt to jog indoors, but it didn't seem to stifle the level of overall activity." Martin explained.
Cardio was the most popular workout. Among those exercising at a facility, four of 10 use cardio equipment the most. At-home exercisers preferred cardio equipment and fitness videos.
"For people who enjoy exercising there is this need to sweat," said Martin. "There's something gratifying in feeling like you have really put in a workout."
Of the latest trends, kettlebells, Zumba, a Latin-music based aerobics workout, and pole dancing were among the three that people wanted to try most, although 26 percent were unaware of them.
Almost half of those that don't work out claim they can't get motivated.
"We hear anecdotally that people are discouraged because they fail," Martin said. "And the message we get is a lot of people are succeeding. If we can figure out how to motivate people and keep them going, then we can change a lot."