Gyms: Just one in 10 people want to go back, according to research

Gyms are struggling to attract their old clientele, as new home workout habits and virus fears take hold

Empty gym
(Image credit: Getty)

The gyms in England are finally opening their doors, with many stringent measures being put in place to safeguard fitness fans. From wiping down all equipment with disposable anti-bacterial wipes, to social distancing and temperature swabbing, gyms are taking the pandemic very seriously indeed. 

This could be all in vain, however, as many gym members have not yet returned. Exercise app conducted a poll of its users, and found almost all of them were avoiding the gym for a little while longer.

The survey, which consisted of 2,000 adults using the app, found only 1 in 10 of them were planning to return to the gym now the gates are open. Even though putting on weight during lockdown was considered a key motivation to exercise, returning to the gym was seen as risky or otherwise undesirable. 

However hard the gyms try to cultivate a safe environment, there is still a lot of anxiety about working out inside with lots of other people. Our writer braved the doors of Fitness First on Saturday, only to find out just 25 people had clocked in across the entire day. 

Gyms reopen in the UK - but did people stick to the rules?

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Thanks to COVID-19, the way we work out has changed. Lots of people now have running shoes, dumbbells, exercise bikes, treadmills, resistance bands and other home workout gear they did not have before. Now the gym are back open, people who might ordinarily have gone back to the gym now find they've got everything they need at home. 

Many people are also rediscovering the joy in working out outside. One study from the Peninsula College of Medicine has shown exercising in parks, woods and other natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalisation, increased energy and positive engagement than working out indoors. 

It could be this new wave of home and outdoor exercise that is keeping would-be gymgoers from returning, as well as fear of the virus. 

Best gym shorts

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The study from also found several more interesting factoids from its users. Two-thirds (63%) of 18-24 year-olds are said to have felt pressure to work out more during lockdown, citing social media such as Facebook and Instagram as the direct cause. 

By contrast, only 30% of 35-44 year olds felt the same way, with the majority feeling no pressure to impress their followers.

If you're not comfortable heading back to the gym, don't worry: we've got all the home workout gear you need, from resistance bands to exercise bikes and treadmills. 

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Matt Evans

Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.