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Young adult men are difficult to recruit and retain in lifestyle interventions. This may be in part to gender differences in exercise goals observed in men, but little is known about exercise preferences for young adults, specifically. The purpose of this study is to compare the exercise preferences of young men and women to inform future interventions in this area. We hypothesize that men will prefer strength training at higher rates than women, and that women will prefer supervised guidance at higher rates than men.


The sample included 288 young adults aged 18-25 (mean age=21.85, SD=2.2). Majority were women and within a normal BMI range (M=25.91, SD=5.3). An anonymous online survey study was completed. Participants were asked their preferred type of exercise (moderate intensity cardio, strength training, intense strength training, or a combination of cardio and strength training), and if they preferred to exercise at a clinic-based facility with supervised guidance or to exercise alone with guidance.Chi-square tests were conducted to determine if there are gender differences in preferences for exercise type and mode of delivery, accounting for BMI.


Over two-third of young adults preferred a combination of moderate intensity cardio and strength training. Women and men differed significantly in their exercise preferences (p=< .001). Less than 1% of women preferred intense strength training compared to the 15.3% of men. Women (17.4%) preferred moderate intensity cardio at higher rates than men (12.2%). However, when examining outcomes by BMI category, these results were only significantly different among individuals within a normal BMI (p=.000). Majority of young adults (67.7%) prefer exercising with their own with guidance from a program. Men and women did not differ in their preference to exercise with guidance or in a clinic-based program with supervision (p=.115).


Findings suggest that young adults overall prefer a combination of strength training and cardio, conducted on their own with guidance from a program. However, young men were more likely to prefer intense strength training; this was particularly true among men in a normal BMI range. These findings may be used to inform the tailoring of recruitment messaging and lifestyle interventions targeting this high-risk population.

Publication Date



Obesity, weight loss, young men


Social and Behavioral Sciences

Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Jessica Gokee LaRose

Is Part Of

VCU Graduate Research Posters

Exercise Preferences Among Young Adults: Do Men and Women Want Different Things?