CivicScience | Exercise on the Rise But Public Gyms on the Bench

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Exercise on the Rise But Public Gyms on the Bench

Image Credit: Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

When it comes to silver linings during difficult times, Americans deciding to exercise more is about as silver as it gets. Once lockdowns hit in March, the percentage of Americans who said they exercise ‘at least a few times a week’ soared, matching a decline in the percentage of people who say they never exercise. There has been a bit of a summer lull – exercise rates going down, non-exercise rates trickling up – but it’s too early to call that a trend. All told, over 4 in 10 Americans say they’re exercising at least a few times per week.

The big exercisers? The 25-34 age group exercises the most in total, but Gen Z – and their parents in the 35-54 age range – are the groups that exercise at least a few times a week at the highest clip.

Along gender lines, men are 8% more likely than women to be regular exercisers (working out at least several times a month).

It’s no secret the exercise market is massive, and it’s also no secret that a big chunk of the marketing dollar is geared toward weight loss. And while people who don’t consider themselves to be overweight work out a few times per week or more (40% more than those who do consider themselves to be overweight), a still-impressive 36% of self-identified overweight people are working out regularly. 

Gym Time

While overall exercise rates have gone up, the number of people who are taking their exercise at a gym has gone down. Coronavirus lockdowns are the obvious culprit here.

And while each state has its own set of restrictions regarding gyms right now, the divide among Americans’ desire to step back into a gym is incredibly wide. Twenty-two percent of Americans say they’d be comfortable walking into a gym today, and 63% say it’s going to be 6 months or more before they consider it.

Clearly, those who feel uncomfortable going into a gym are concerned about the coronavirus. A vaccine, however, might alleviate those fears somewhat. More than 60% of Americans who say they would walk into a gym today also say they would never get a coronavirus vaccine. On the flip side? Nearly 3 out of 4 Americans who say they would get a vaccine within a month – or 2 months, or 6 months – of it becoming available say they’re also not going anywhere near a gym right now. 

Home Life

Right in line with the decline in people going to gyms is an uptick in people who have either created a home gym or people who are interested in doing so.

The strongest market for at-home exercise equipment? Those aged 35-54, and it’s not particularly close.

Men are more likely than women to be new owners of home gym equipment while women are more likely to be intenders. But the biggest marker in who owns home exercise equipment? Household income. Americans with households making $100K+ are significantly more likely to have purchased gym equipment or are interested in doing so.

The big takeaways here? Americans are exercising more since the start of the coronavirus, but they’re doing it on their own. For gyms to get back to “normal” it’s going to take a lot more than slick advertising. And although the rise in weekly exercisers has plateaued a bit, it seems like it will still be a long autumn for the gym chains. 

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