Runners Find Little Need for Gyms in 2021

Posted on 02 November, 2023 by Paul Ronto

Runners find little need for gyms in 2021

Back in April we surveyed 12,913 people and found that moderate runners (those running just 1-3 times a week) prior to the lockdown were finding more time to run and as a group were logging 55% more runs. 

We just completed another survey of 2,712 runners to see what they plan to do in 2021 to hit their fitness goals. This was part of another study we just published on Gym Member trends

Key Findings

  • 84.78% of runners said that outdoor activities like running and working out at home would be their primary source of exercise in 2021.
  • Only 5.62% of runners said that gym memberships were key to their fitness goals in 2021, down 69.5% from 2020. 
  • The number of runners that said hiring a personal trainer or nutritionist as their top fitness priority in 2021 is up 64.58% compared to 2020.

As the pandemic continues to drag on, running has become even more prevalent as a primary source of exercise. 

In 2021, 71.53% of runners plan for outdoor activities like running to be their primary source of exercise. This number climbs to 84.78%, when you add in runners that said they plan to work out primarily at home in 2021. 

People who plan to run outside or at home in 2021 has increased by 19.1% from 2020. 

Runners primary way of achieving fitness goals 2021

With gyms still closed and limitations for members still imposed, only 5.62% of runners said that gym memberships were key to their fitness goals in 2021, down 69.5% from 2020. 

Runners still have fitness goals in 2021, gyms just seem not to be a part of it. However hiring a personal trainer as a priority is up 64.58%, which most people can do remotely, leading to working out at home being a priority, skyrocketing by 48.28% since 2020. 

Runners primary fitness outlet % of change 2020 v 2021


Until it’s safe to be back in the gym, runners clearly prefer to just keep running as their primary source of exercise heading into 2021. 

While races are slowly coming back, it's encouraging to see running holding on and possibly even gaining popularity, a very thin, yet silver lining of this worldwide crisis. 

Data and methodology

  • RunRepeat surveyed 2,712 participants between 11/4//2020 and 11/23/2020
  • Participants from 103 countries participated in the survey
  • The survey was conducted on

Fitness and the COVID-19 pandemic

As shelter-at-home orders are a distant memory, and gyms have begun to resume normal operations. Life is getting back to normal, well at least a new normal. Running and walking have proved to be steady outlets for enjoying exercise benefits, and races have begun to pop back up on the calendar.

RunRepeat is here to help you find the right road running shoes, trail running shoes, training footwear, sneakers, and everything in between to ensure that this continued crisis doesn’t keep you from staying healthy. We do this buy publishing reviews of shoes that have been tested by us, outside, and inside of our lab. We love cutting shoes in half and examining every little detail. Because of these lab tests, we're able to give ratings for many shoe features like durability, breathability, flexibility, softness.

Stay active while the weather permits too, and get out to your local trails. RunRepeat has all the info you’ll need to find the right hiking boots, hiking shoes, and hiking sandals

Be sure to check out our in-depth studies on the sports we love and learn more about RunRepeat today. 

Use of content

  • We are happy to give interviews on the topic at any time. For this purpose or for print-use questions, or access to our raw data please reach out to Paul Ronto at
  • Feel free to use material from this page in any web coverage of the topic, we just ask that you refer, and link, back to this original source.
Paul Ronto
Paul Ronto
Over the past 20 years, Paul has climbed, hiked, and run all over the world. He has summited peaks throughout the Americas, trekked through Africa, and tested his endurance in 24-hour trail races as well as 6 marathons. On average, he runs 30-50 miles a week in the foothills of Northern Colorado. His research is regularly cited in The New York Times, Washington Post, National Geographic, etc. On top of this, Paul is leading the running shoe lab where he cuts shoes apart and analyzes every detail of the shoes that you might buy.