Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

November 2020

Study Shows Americans Miss the Gym

A first-of-its-kind national survey recently released by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) asked Americans with gym memberships about their physical and mental state throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The full results from the study, conducted in collaboration with Kelton Global, a Material Company, have been published in "The COVID Era Fitness Consumer," which delves into how Americans feel about the pandemic overall, how the virus has shaped their personal wellness outlooks, their overall comfort levels returning to the gym and more.

As gyms were closed in March due to COVID-19, members were forced to change up their routines, with some getting creative at home while others struggled to find fitness solutions that measured up to the gym experience. The study found that gymgoers are looking forward to returning to their gym. In fact, when asked what they miss most, 59% of Americans with gym memberships said they miss going to the gym most. The only thing they miss more is visiting loved ones (65%). Going to concerts and games (55%) and going to bars and restaurants (51%) followed getting back to the gym.

Many gym members are looking forward to enjoying the physical and mental benefits of working out at their gym again, from building strength and their immune system to releasing mood-boosting endorphins. Notable, half (50%) of gym members expressed dissatisfaction with at-home fitness efforts and changes to their routine, primarily because those new routines are less challenging (54%), less consistent (53%) or just simply worse (51%) than their gym-going routines.

Other insights around how people feel about going to the gym amidst the pandemic include:

  • 88% of members who have returned to their gym since it reopened expressed complete confidence in safety precautions and cleanliness procedures.
  • 76% of gymgoers admit they are feeling anxious about their health, with nearly equal numbers concerned about their physical fitness (50%) and their immunity (49%). Respondents were more likely to say they worry about these factors than about connecting with family and friends (38%), stay-at-home orders (34%), or returning to malls, restaurants and gyms (33%).
  • Those at elevated risk of COVID-19 due to preexisting conditions are doubling down on health commitments. Compared to those with fewer comorbidities, those at increased risk are more likely to say they're committed to being more physically active (60% vs. 56%). And 58% of gymgoers, regardless of current health, said they are now more committed to being physically active, eating healthier (57%) and taking better care of their mental health (42%) than ever before.
  • Gymgoers say exercise (65%) has been a successful way they've managed stress over the past few months.
  • Prior to the pandemic, 42% of gymgoers went three to four days a week. As gyms reopen, almost as many (35%) anticipate they'd be going just as often, and 94% said they'll return in some capacity.
  • Nearly all (95%) gymgoers miss at least one aspect of physically being at the gym. Among them, they most miss the routine of going to the gym (54%). Having limited equipment at home (54%) means they're not able to get the same variety of workouts (51%). Some 42% miss working out with other people, and 36% miss the community aspect of the gym.

"The data confirms the essential role health clubs play in promoting and maintaining the well-being of consumers," said Jay Ablondi, executive vice president for global products for IHRSA. "With 70% of members relying on their gyms to maintain their overall health, Americans are looking to getting back to, maintaining and even improving their exercise habits—and nothing but confidence in their gyms to be safe, comfortable and clean. Clearly, there's no replacement."

Visit for more information on this study, as well as for resources to help understand how to keep gymgoers safe as facilities reopen.

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