How Will Gym Members Stay Fit in 2021 [Hint:Not the Gym]

Posted on 02 November, 2023 by Nicholas Rizzo


Although nearly half of gym members said they would return to their gym when it reopened back in April, only a third had returned since August

With the pandemic only worsening as 2020 comes to an end, we wanted to learn how this year has changed the way gym members approach achieving the benefits of exercise and their fitness goals. 

To do this, we surveyed 1,990 gym members from 120 different countries in order to learn how they will be approaching staying fit in 2021, in comparison to the start of 2020. 

Note: For a full analysis, be sure to check out our new Fitness Trends report.


  • Only 15.18% of current gym members think a gym membership is the best way to achieve their fitness goals in 2021 - a 63.31% decline from the start of 2020 
  • Nearly three-quarters of gym members (71.78%) say running and other outdoor activities (49.92%) or home fitness options (21.86%) are the best ways to achieve their fitness goals in 2021. 
  • While female gym-goers favour online fitness options, personal trainers, or nutritionists at a higher rate, males are turning to buying home workout equipment and taking up sports. 

Most gym members are finding new ways to stay fit 

41.38% of gym members said a membership was the best way to achieve their fitness goals at the start of 2020. But as we go into 2021, that number has dropped significantly to only 15.18%.


The primary way gym members plan to stay fit in 2021 is now outdoor activities like running, hiking, walking, cycling, etc. Having increased from 35.82% in at the beginning of 2020 to 49.92% in 2021 (a 39.4% increase). 

At-home workout equipment increased from being the best way to stay fit for only 8.80% of gym members at the start of 2020 to 18.99% in 2021 (an amazing 115.8% increase). 

What are gym members favouring: 

  • 1.4x more gym members are opting for home fitness options like at-home workout equipment (18.99%) and online fitness courses, classes, and subscriptions (2.93%) than gym memberships in 2021. 
  • 3.2x more gym members are relying primarily on outdoor activities (49.92%) like running, hiking, and cycling than gym memberships in 2021 

Differences by gender 

Male gym-goers are turning to buying home workout equipment and taking up sports to stay fit at a higher rate than women. While women are favouring options like online fitness, personal trainers or nutritionists.


In regards to what men are favouring in 2021: 

  • 1.3x more men are opting for at-home workout equipment in 2021 than women (19.50% men vs 15.32% women). 
  • 6.6x more men think sports are their best way to stay fit in 2021, in comparison to women (5.62% men vs 0.85% women). 

In regards to what women are favouring in 2021: 

  • 2.6x more women favoured online fitness courses, classes, and subscriptions than men (2.46% men vs 6.38% women). 
  • 1.5x more women are relying primarily on the help of a personal trainer or nutritionist than men (6.38% women vs 4.16% men). 

Both men and women saw the importance of gym memberships decrease significantly while the focus on options like outdoor activities and at-home workout equipment increased significantly.


How men differed from 2020 to 2021: 

  • At-home workout equipment was the 2nd most chosen way to stay fit in 2021 (19.50%), pushing gym memberships to 3rd (15.11%). 
  • For men, sports as the best way to stay fit actually increased to 6.85%, up from 5.62% at the start of 2020. 
  • The number of men favouring online fitness courses, classes, and subscriptions remained the least chosen option for men at 2.46%, despite increasing from 1.41% at the start of 2020.


While the main differences in the responses of women from 2020 to 2021 were:

  • Women still favour gym memberships (15.74%) more than at-home workout equipment (15.32%). 
  • Online fitness courses, classes, and subscriptions are tied for the fourth most favoured option by women in 2021 (6.38%), up from being the least favoured option at the start of 2020 (2.13%). 
  • Women engaging in sports to stay fit decreased drastically from 3.40% to 0.85%. 


As 2020 comes to an end, 25% of gyms are expected to permanently close by the end of 2020. On top of this, the pandemic is worsening as we approach a crucial time of year for gyms, as 12% of all new gym members typically sign up in January

The picture isn’t looking much better for 2021, with only 15.18% of current members saying it will be their primary means for achieving fitness goals. 

While the situation seems to continue to worsen for gyms, more people are investing in home fitness options like equipment, online fitness courses, classes, and subscriptions.

Data and Methodology 

  • We surveyed 1,990 gym members between 11/4/2020 and 11/23/2020
  • The gym members that participated were from 120 different countries
  • The survey was conducted on 

Fitness in 2021 

With cases continuing to rise, 2nd lockdowns occurring across Europe, the pandemic rages on. Whether you are part of the 15.18% sticking with gyms or 21.86% going with a home fitness option, you are going to need a great pair of training shoes

No matter what you are into, we have all the shoes field- and lab-tested; we’ll help you find the best pairs of CrossFit shoes, weightlifting shoes, shoes for HIIT, or even shoes with rope protection for rope workouts.

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.