Fitness Trends 2021: New Trends in Fitness [Global Report]

Posted on 28 June, 2023 by Nicholas Rizzo


The pandemic has forced drastic changes upon the fitness industry, producing a sizable shift in how people approach staying fit and maintaining the health benefits of regular exercise.  

In order to learn about what the newest trends in fitness were for 2021, we surveyed 4,538 active adults from 122 countries (active adults are respondents who reported being active at the start of 2020). These respondents shared what they believe was the best way to stay fit in 2021, in comparison to the start of 2020, before the pandemic.

In this report, we break down the change in trends from 2020 to 2021, showing the differences demographically and in comparison to the two cohort studies of 1,990 gym members and  2,712 runners we published previously.

Key Findings

  • Exercising outdoors is the most popular fitness trend going into 2021:
    • 59.1% of active adults chose outdoor activities like running, training, hiking, and walking as the best way to stay fit in 2021; up 14.6% from the start of 2020
    • 39.4% of gym members are switching to running and other outdoor activities in 2021
  • The three fastest-growing fitness trends amongst active adults going into 2021 are: 
    • At-home fitness equipment (up 49.6%)
    • Personal trainers/nutritionists (up 47.5%)
    • Online fitness courses, classes, and subscriptions (up 16.8%)
  • Home fitness is growing explosively amongst active Americans and gym members:
    • Active American adults saw significant increases in both at-home fitness equipment (up 218.3%) and online fitness (up 134.7%) as the best way to achieve fitness goals in 2021
    • Gym members also saw significant increases in both at-home fitness equipment (115.9%) and online fitness (93.3%) as their best solution for staying fit. 
  • The biggest loser of 2020 is memberships to gyms, health clubs, and group exercise classes:
    • 60.5% fewer active adults see gyms, health clubs, and group exercise classes as the best way to stay fit in 2021.

If you have any questions regarding the above findings, the following report, or are looking for interviews on this topic of trends in fitness, please feel free to reach out to Nick Rizzo, the Fitness Research Director here at RunRepeat, at

Table of Contents

Exercising outdoors is the #1 most popular trend of 2021; 59.1% of active adults say outdoor activities like running, hiking, walking, cycling, climbing, etc. are the best way to achieve their fitness goals in 2021.


At-home fitness equipment is the second most popular trend with 16.7% of adults seeing it as their best way to stay fit. In comparison to the 8.2% of adults that chose gyms, 103.6% more respondents think at-home fitness equipment is their best bet for achieving their fitness goals in 2021.

In addition to being the 2nd most popular trend of 2021, at-home fitness equipment is the fastest growing fitness trend, up 49.6% from the start of 2020.  


The 2nd and 3rd fastest growing trends for staying fit in 2021 are personal trainers and nutritionists (up 47.5%) and online fitness (16.8%).

The two trends that were hit the hardest were gym, health club, and group exercise memberships (down 60.5%) and sports (down 25.2%).

Doing outdoor activities was the top trend in 2020 and in 2021. Outdoor activities consist of exercises such as running, hiking, walking, cycling, and any other form of outdoor workouts, exercises, or training. 

Exercising outdoors was voted the best way to stay fit in 2021 by 59.1% of active adults, increasing 14.6% from the start of 2020.


UK respondents were 30.28% more in favor of outdoor exercise in comparison to the US.

Women experienced a larger increase in exercising outdoors as the best way to stay fit  (19.0%) in comparison to men (14.1%).


49.9% of gym members say outdoor exercise is their best way to achieve their fitness goals in 2021, a 39.4% increase from the start of 2020. 

2) Fastest growing trend of 2021 - At-home fitness equipment

From the onset of the lockdown, many people have made significant changes to their exercise regimens. A lot of people made the decision to start investing in at-home gym equipment or make use of the fitness equipment they already had.

The percentage of active adults seeing at-home fitness equipment as the best way to stay fit increased by 49.6%, making it the fastest growing trend of 2021. 

In the US, this trend has grown explosively by 218.3%.


In stark contrast to the US, those from the UK aren’t jumping on this trend in quite the same way, with only 11.8% opting for at-home fitness equipment in 2021.

Women favoring at-home fitness equipment grew 17.0% more than men since the start of 2020. 

Again we see that the gym industry’s loss is another industry’s gain; The number of gym members seeing at-home fitness equipment as their best option for 2021 increased 115.9%; going from just 8.8% in 2020 to 19.0% in 2021.


Home workout equipment was the 2nd most popular choice for active adults and runners as well, with both seeing nearly 50% growth in the trend.

3) Fitness trend hit the hardest in 2020 - Gym memberships (Down 60.5%)

The gym industry is facing an incredibly difficult time during the pandemic. Before exiting the first lockdown in April, more than 10% of members had already canceled their memberships. Study after study showed more troubling signs as the year progressed.

At the start of 2020, a fifth of active adults turned to the gym as their primary way to stay fit. Now in 2021, only 8.2% of active adults see it as the best option - a decrease of 60.5%.


73.0% fewer active adults from the UK favor gyms in 2021 after experiencing a drastic decline from 25.2% at the start of the year to 6.8%. 


Runners are the ones avoiding gyms the most in 2021, with 69.6% fewer runners seeing gyms as their best way to keep fit. 

4) Women steering away from sports in 2021 (Down 53%)

Sports are typically a great way to stay active and fit. Unfortunately, with the need for social distancing during a pandemic, sports see a significant decline going into 2021.

The percentage of active adults who relied on sports to stay fit decreased 25.2% over the year, with only 6.0% still seeing it as their best option for 2021. 


The decrease in this trend for women (down 53.0%) was more than double than that for men (down 23.8%).

Active adults in the UK looking to sports as their primary form of exercise decreased by 30.8%, more than double the 14.1% percentage decrease the US experienced.


Runners are avoiding sports the most in 2021, with decreases in this trend for runners (down 44.2%) being more than double of gym-goers (down 21.9%).

5) 47.5% more people look to personal trainers and nutritionists to stay fit in 2021 

Personal trainers and nutritionists are invaluable experts, and it seems more people are seeing that going into 2021.

159.4% more active UK adults are seeing personal trainers and nutritionists as their best solution to reaching their fitness goals in 2021. 

Although a smaller increase than in the UK, American's belief that personal trainers and nutritionists are what will be best to help them achieve their fitness goals in 2021 rose 89.4%.


Aside from a huge increase in active adults in the largest markets (US with 89.4% and UK with 159.4%), the global increase has not been as drastic at only 47.5%.

Women also favored using these fitness professionals to obtain their fitness goals 52.9% more than men.


Gym members are the cohort that favored personal trainers and nutritionists the most in 2020 (3.2%) and 2021 (4.4%).

Runners reported the highest growth in this trend, increasing by 57.9% over the year.

6) 134.7% more active American adults see online fitness content as the best way to stay fit in 2021

Online fitness content, courses, classes, and subscriptions experienced growth as the best option to achieve fitness goals in 2021 as well.

The trend of online fitness exploded in America, with 134.7% more active American adults switching to this new trend to reach their fitness goals as the pandemic continues into 2021.


37.4% more women chose online fitness in 2021 in comparison to 2020, more than triple the growth than men (up 11.7%).

Women favor online fitness solutions as the best way to achieve their fitness goals 135.0% more than men in 2021.


As we saw with the at-home fitness equipment trend, the cohort who experienced the greatest growth in this trend were gym members (93.3%).

How inactive adults plan to get fit in 2021 

Not everyone was necessarily active before the pandemic, with our studies showing those who exercised the least, had the greatest increase in exercise during the lockdown. We wanted to see how inactive adults differed in their approach to staying fit in-comparison to active adults.

Of all respondents surveyed, 6.19% of the adults were considered “inactive” as they reported they were not exercising at the start of 2020.


In comparison to how active adults plan to stay fit in 2021 inactive adults are, 12.0% less likely to choose outdoor activities and 28.5% more likely to chose at-home fitness equipment.

In comparison to active men, inactive men are 181.1% more likely to choose personal trainers or nutritionists and 90.2% more choose online fitness solutions in 2021.

In comparison to active women, inactive women are 70.2% more likely to choose a gym or health club and 82.7% more likely to choose a personal trainer or nutritionist.

Data and methodology

  • We surveyed 4,538 active adults, 2,712 runners, and 1,990 gym members between 11/4/2020 and 11/28/2020
  • The gym members that participated were from 122 different countries
  • The survey was conducted on


During the initial lockdown, nearly half of gym members stated they didn't plan on returning to their gym. By September, it turned out less than a third of members had returned and that a fifth of gyms were still closed with estimates that 25% of gyms and health could close by the end of 2020.

With gyms and health clubs essentially out of the picture for many in 2021, it makes sense to see that people have decided to either start investing in home fitness solutions or take advantage of just being active outdoors.

As the support system, structure, and organization of gyms, fitness studios, boot camps, and classes have gone away, it seems people are turning more to personal trainers, nutritionists, and online fitness content to support them in their fitness goals as well.

Achieving your fitness goals in 2021

It's clear, fitness has and is continuing change at a rapid pace due to the pandemic. What hasn't changed is the need for the proper footwear to support you in achieving those fitness goals. 

At RunRepeat, we test loads of training shoes. In fact, we've tested more than 100 shoes for the gym. 

If you are one of the many heading outdoors in 2021, look no further than our in-depth reviews and tests and analysis of running shoes, hiking shoes, hiking boots, hiking sandals, or training shoes

Meanwhile, if you are part of the massively growing movement towards home fitness, you will certainly need the right pair of shoes to match your training regiment. Whether you are in need of crossfit shoes, weightlifting shoes, workout shoes, cross-training shoes, shoes for HIIT, or home gym shoes, we have all the best options from the brands you love, ranked, reviewed, and all the best prices.

The Fitness Trends study published in the ACSM's Health and Fitness Journal surveyed 4,377 health and fitness professionals in 2020 to determine the top 20 most popular fitness trends of 2021. The following are the results of the ACSM's Worldwide Fitness Trends for 2021 study, where they show the most popular, from #1 to #20:





Online training

In 2019, virtual online training was ranked at #3, before dropping to #26 in 2020. And now since the coronavirus pandemic, with the closure of gyms, health clubs, and the likes, online training has jumped to #1 in 2021 during the covid-19 pandemic.

This category consists of live streaming workouts and streaming on-demand online training. Allowing people to develop a full virtual workout routine consisting of anything from a live fitness class to a one-on-one session with a fitness instructor or personal trainer.


Wearable technology

Wearable fitness tech trend refers to device that are a fitness tracker, smart watches, GPS tracker, heart rate monitor, and smart wearable devices.


Body weight training

As the name states, this trend is all about using just the weight of your body and a wide variety of exercises as a form of training. 

With no need for equipment, no cost, and simplicity of this activity, it is incredibly popular and effective for people of all fitness levels.


Outdoor activities

Outdoor activities, ranging from walking or running, to hiking, climbing, or cycling have grown in popularity during the pandemic. 

These activities range from being solo to large groups to lasting only a short while to weeklong excursions.



High-intensity interval training involves short bouts of high-intensity efforts spaced out with intermittent breaks for a period of rest. 

Its popularity comes from its effectiveness and ability to be used with a wide array of exercises.


Virtual training

Virtual training is the combination of group exercise with technology that provides workouts designed for ease and convenience. This involves the playing of a pre-recorded workout on a large screen for a small group class.

Many live group fitness classes at fitness facilities or fitness studio use virtual classes as a gateway.

If training a novice, virtual workouts are ideal because clients can go at their own pace and learn proper form.


Exercise is Medicine

This trend is a global health initiative to push health care professionals to include physical activity in their assessments and treatment of health conditions.


Strength training with free weights

A "tried and true classic" - strength training with free weights such as dumbbells, kettlebells, barbells, and more are essential and consistently a popular trend.


Fitness programs for older adults

As the aging population grows, more and more needs are arising to address the specific fitness needs of older adults, seniors, and the elderly to develop fitness clubs or a fitness routine.


Personal training

A top 10 trend since 2006, personal training combines physical activity assessment, fitness testing, goal setting, program design, and one-on-one workouts to help clients meet their fitness goals.


Health/wellness coaching

This trend brings behavioral science into the practice of coaching others for the sake of improving health and wellbeing. Helping clients to goal setting, guidance, support, and planning in a way that is tailored to the wants, needs, vision, and values of the individual.


Mobile exercise apps

This trend consists of fitness apps that provide audio and or visual prompts for working out, tracking progress, programs, and a wide range of other features.


Employing certified fitness professionals

As our RunRepeat study shows, there is a significant trend in investing in fitness professionals, but not just anyone. People are looking for certified professionals accredited from recognized organizations.


Functional fitness training

Using strength training to improve not only strength and muscle, but also endurance, coordination, balance, and overall healthy functional wellbeing. Many boutique studio companies like F45 developed an entire franchise around this concept.



Yoga has been a popular trend since 2008, growing in popularity ever since. 

It consists of a wide range of styles of yoga, from more traditional ones to westernized versions like power yoga or yogilates.


Exercise for weight loss

Exercise as part of weight loss programs centered around diet and nutrition.


Group training

Group exercise training was very popular, but during the pandemic it feel from the #3 most popular trend in 2020 to the #17 in 2021.


Lifestyle medicine

This is an evidence-based approach to helping people modify their behaviors in favor of one that improve their health and quality of life. 

It includes everything from modifying diet, exercise, drug/alcohol consumption, and more.


Licensure for fitness professionals

Some professions in the United States and around the world are regulated by either local or state licensure.

People can't call themselves a medical doctor or nurse if they don't have a license from the government. The same can be said for physical therapists or dietitians.

So this fitness trend is regarding the fitness industry's interest in regulating fitness professionals such as personal trainers.


Outcome measurements

The use of defined measures to track and report on the benefits of various health and fitness programs.

Nicholas Rizzo
Nicholas Rizzo
Nick combines 10+ years of experience in the health and fitness industry and a background in the sciences in his role as the Fitness Research Director. During his competitive powerlifting years his PRs have him sitting in the top 2% of bench presses (395 lbs), top 3% of squats (485 lbs) and top 6% of deadlifts (515 lbs) for his weight and age. His work has been featured on, LiveStrong, Healthline, WebMD, WashingtonPost, and many more. Along the way, collaborating with industry leaders like Michael Yessis, Mark Rippetoe, Carlo Buzzichelli, Dave Tate, Ray Williams, and Joel Seedman.