This has been a year that has taken a significant toll on the health of everyone, both mentally and physically. Thanks to lockdowns and closures of businesses such as gyms and fitness centers due to the COVID-19 pandemic, people around the world saw their level of exercise and physical fitness plummet.
While hurdles to fitness existed, they were not impossible to overcome, with many people adjusting their fitness routines to accommodate the new reality of the pandemic. People found ways to stay active, such as buying equipment to work out at home or turning to low-cost activities such as outdoor exercise. These changes represent a major shift, with experts predicting that billions of dollars will either shift or disappear from the fitness industry altogether.
A 2020 survey from TD Ameritrade found that people were spending an average of $177 a month on gym memberships and fitness classes pre-pandemic, for an annual total in excess of $2,100. That same study found that nearly 60% of people do not plan to renew those same gym memberships following the pandemic. Most people indicated a primary motivator for that decision is they have found more affordable ways to work out over the last year.
Knowing all of that, our team wanted to take a deeper look into the world of exercise. We evaluated Google Trends data covering a one-year period from mid-April 2020 to mid-April 2021. We were able to find which fitness trends were most popular in every state. We also got a good look at the kinds of fitness activities, trends, and home equipment that have taken the place of the gym in the present — which may also represent the future of fitness.
Popular workout styles in each state
Our team gathered search data on over 135 different terms relating to fitness and working out, which we grouped together and evaluated across four different categories and themes. The first theme we focused on is the broadest — looking at popular and trendy workout formats.
All told we collected search volume on 37 different kinds of workouts and compared the data for those terms in each state to determine which workout style is most popular in each. Having determined the most popular kind of workout in each state over the last year, we mapped out the results.
Across the country, 21 different styles of workout were most popular in at least one state. Weight training and jogging were the most popular workout styles in the highest number of states, with eight each. Only one other workout style was most popular in at least five states, with strength training taking the top spot in exactly five.
In fact, only three additional workouts were most popular in three or more states, with circuit training (four states), elliptical workout (three states), and aerobics (three states) meeting that criteria.
We also grouped states together into their respective geographic regions to find which workout style is most popular in different parts of the country. Either weight training or jogging showed up as first or tied for first in every region of the country. This makes sense given how popular overall those two workouts were in our state-by-state analysis.
|Region||Most popular workout style(s)|
Popular at-home fitness programs in each state
After finding the workout formats people were most interested in, we wanted to take a look at specific at-home programs that were popular. Unsurprisingly, many of these incorporate popular trends and styles.
Thanks to the accessibility of online streaming and on-demand services, virtual workout programs were very popular this year. The rise of home-based workouts makes sense following the closures of gyms and similar workout facilities. In fact, a BeachBody survey on the future of fitness found that 90% of people who exercise regularly find their home-based workouts to be effective and plan to continue them after the pandemic.
This growth in virtual fitness solutions isn’t showing signs of slowing down either. The first quarter of 2021 saw a 25% increase in health and fitness app downloads on iOS devices from the end of 2020.
For this portion of our research, we looked up search volume totals for 31 different popular at-home workout programs and apps. Some of these programs are well-known brands that have been around for years, while others are newer.
The most popular at-home program over the last year was one of those well-established systems: P90X proved to be most popular in the greatest number of states, eight. While that program was first released in 2005, the second-place finisher is much newer. The Fitbit Premium subscription service just launched in fall 2019 but it appears to have already made a significant impact in the fitness space. It proved to be the most popular at-home program in seven different states, just behind P90X.
After those top finishers, only two other programs were most popular in more than two states. Those programs were Seven, an app that gives users access to quick, seven-minute workouts, and PiYo, a combination of pilates and yoga from the same company that developed P90X. Each of these programs were the most popular workouts in six different states.
|Region||Most popular at-home fitness program|
Interestingly, both the top finishers in our state-level evaluation appear to be particularly popular in specific regions of the country. Over half of the states where P90X is most popular are in the South (five of eight), while the same is true of Fitbit Premium in the Midwest (four of seven).
Popular home gym equipment in each state
Once people pick the specific program they feel will help them achieve their fitness goals, the next step often includes buying workout equipment. Thanks to COVID-19, 2020 was a year where having a well-stocked home gym was more important than ever for the fitness-conscious.
In 2020, sales for some fitness items grew by more than triple digits for certain pieces of equipment such as weight benches (259% increase), free weights (181%), stationary bikes (170%), and yoga mats (146%). In fact, online retailer eBay saw 1000%+ increases in sales for certain fitness equipment items.
To find the most popular home gym additions in each state, we looked up the equipment — both old and new school — that people across the country were looking up the most over the last year.
The piece of fitness equipment that was easily the most popular is also one of the newest and most cutting-edge of the 29 we researched. Mirror launched in 2018 and sells a high-tech smart fitness mirror that allows users to stream workout classes directly on its surface, both live and on demand. Lululemon bought Mirror for $500 million in 2020, and if the results of our research are any indication that acquisition should pay off. Mirror was the top-searched piece of home gym equipment in a whopping 13 states.
One other piece of equipment cracked double digits — good old treadmills were most popular in 10 different states. That means our top two finishers combined, Mirror and treadmills, cover almost half the country.
After those two, only four types of home gym equipment were most popular in multiple states. Those products are elliptical trainers (six states), exercise balls (four states), stationary bikes (three states), and Bowflex machines (two states).
|Region||Most popular home gym equipment|
When comparing search interest across geographic regions, we found the American South is driving much of the interest in Mirror. Eleven of the 13 states where the product was most popular are located there. Treadmills prove popular in the rest of the country, however. They were the top-searched piece of home gym equipment in every other region in America.
Popular Peloton trainers
One thing our team found interesting in our evaluation of home gym equipment was that Peloton took the number-one spot in just one location: Washington, D.C. But while the seemingly ubiquitous Peloton only finished first in D.C., it did have strong search results throughout the country. That search volume shows that while there may be trendier equipment in certain areas, the Peloton brand is still broadly popular.
Beyond the search volume, more traditional data shows how popular Peloton was in the last year. The company reported a 232% increase in revenue last year and saw their stock price increase by 400%. Peloton also saw a 382% increase in digital subscriptions to their app service over the last year.
That kind of growth isn’t too surprising given that users do not actually need to own any Peloton equipment to utilize the app’s many classes. Those factors, plus a reasonable $12.99 monthly price point, indicate some possible reasons why the popularity of Peloton’s app has exploded in recent years.
Part of the appeal of Peloton is the instructors who lead the classes. Many of these instructors have become celebrities in their own right. For our final trends analysis, we wanted to find which Peloton instructor is most popular in each state.
While seven states did not have strong enough search volume to declare a winner for any of Peloton’s 40 instructors, we do have results for 43 states plus the District of Columbia. Based on search interest over the last year, we can confidently say that one Peloton instructor takes the popularity crown. That instructor is Ally Love, who was the most popular instructor in eight different states.
Love was well ahead of the second-place finisher, Robin Arzón, who was most popular in five states. Rounding out the top three most popular instructors is former professional cyclist Christian Vande Velde, who was most popular in four states. Vande Velde’s high finish is noteworthy, as he is only a guest instructor for Peloton to rank in our findings.
Four other instructors — Sam Yo, Kendall Toole, Hannah Corbin, and Alex Toussaint — were most popular in three states each.
Ally Love’s popularity isn’t confined to a single part of the country either. After breaking out the data by region, Love claimed two of the four parts of the country thanks to top finishes in the Midwest and Northeast.
|Region||Most popular Peloton instructor(s)|
|South||Sam Yo/Alex Toussaint|
|West||Christian Vande Velde|
Shaping your fitness future
No matter how or where you get your sweat on, we hope this article has been illuminating and inspirational while helping you better to understand fitness trends in this most unusual year. And for those looking for tips on improving your physical fitness, here are a few ideas:
- Finance your ride: While using it to work out at home saves money in the long run, the initial cost of a Peloton bike can be daunting. Thankfully, the fitness company has a partnership with Affirm that allows customers to finance the equipment using a buy now pay later option.
- Budget for your health: As we mentioned earlier, pre-pandemic people were spending an average of $177 a month on gym memberships and fitness classes. But many of the popular fitness apps and at-home programs cost only a fraction of that amount and provide great results, resulting in a healthier budget as well as a healthier body.
- Get rewarded while hitting the gym: While fitness is trending toward home, some people still prefer the experience of going to the gym. For those people, finding a credit card such as the World of Hyatt Credit Card that offers bonus points for purchasing gym memberships is a great way to get rewarded for working out.
- Utilize work benefits: Many employers offer health and wellness benefits to employees, which can include things like paying for healthy meal kit delivery or gym membership reimbursement. Check to see if your company offers these benefits and utilize them if they do.
- Eat healthier while earning rewards: Taking a healthy approach to your food is a great way to improve your overall physical health. Buying more nutritious foods at the grocery store is a key component of such a change. Beyond the physical benefits an improved diet provides, using any of the best credit cards for groceries can keep your wallet healthy as well.
FinanceBuzz collected Google Trends search data on 137 different terms relating to workouts, at-home fitness programs, pieces of gym equipment, and Peloton instructors on April 14, 2021. The time frame for the collected data was set to “Past 12 months.” In the event of ties, terms were compared head-to-head within Google Trends to determine a winner.
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