NEW National Survey: 56% of Americans Still Uncomfortable Going to the Gym at This Stage in Pandemic

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Key Takeaways

  • 56% of Americans indicate being “not comfortable” going to an indoor gym as of July 31, 2022
  • The results are skewed by gender, with 60.6% of women reporting being uncomfortable with public indoor fitness, compared to 51% of men
  • Men were 18.5% more likely to report feeling comfortable going to the gym than women
  • Older Americans aged 65+ are the least comfortable with indoor gyms, with 68.8% indicating that they are uncomfortable going to an indoor gym
  • Generation Z aged 18-24 are the most comfortable with indoor gyms, with only 43.4% indicating that they are uncomfortable going to an indoor gym
  • The majority of all demographic groups except Generation Z (both men and women) indicate being uncomfortable going to an indoor gym 
  • Regionally, the U.S. South is the most comfortable going to indoor gyms (47.4% report feeling comfortable) versus the least, the U.S. Northeast (39.2% report feeling comfortable)

The results of a new nationwide survey have found that 56% of U.S. adults report feeling uncomfortable going to a public indoor gym at this stage in the COVID-19 pandemic. These findings hold true across nearly all demographic groups, with the sole exception of Generation Z (aged 18-24), of whom only 43.4% report feeling uncomfortable in gyms. 

Figure 1. Source: Google Data Studio

As of August 3, 2022, over 91 million cases of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus have been confirmed in the United States since the first case was registered on January 20, 2020. Since first being declared a public health emergency in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has gone on to claim the lives of 1.03 million Americans

The global pandemic has inflicted an enduring blow on the fitness industry. After many months of indoor gym closures, social distancing measures, and virtual classes, the fitness industry has changed on a seemingly permanent basis. Even with an effective vaccine rolled out by public health agencies, many Americans are hesitant to return to pre-pandemic fitness routines.

According to our survey, published on August 3, 2022, a clear majority of Americans are not comfortable returning to indoor gyms and fitness spaces. In this report, we will elucidate the findings of this landmark survey and provide commentary on its implications for the future of fitness. 

August 2022 Survey: 56% of U.S. Adults Cite Discomfort With Indoor Gyms and Fitness Centres

Industry analysts at Gymless, a free educational resource dedicated to bodyweight fitness, recently launched a nationally representative survey of 1,502 American adults. The findings held unequivocally that most Americans are not feeling ready to return to the gym. The survey question was put forward as follows:

“Do you feel comfortable going to an indoor gym at this stage in the pandemic?” 

Responses were collected between July 29th and 31st, 2022, and included a sample size of 1,502 participants after weighting for demographic factors. 

The results displayed above (Fig. 1) indicate that 56% of all respondents, consisting of all ages and genders, feel uncomfortable returning to indoor fitness spaces. 

However, the responses vary quite widely according to gender, age, and geographical region. Below, we’ve taken a closer look at the survey data with respect to these three key demographic factors.  

Survey Results by Age

The results depicted below (Fig. 2) indicate that a large percentage of those who report being uncomfortable with going to (or returning to) an indoor gym are those aged 65 and older. In fact, those aged 65+ were 309% more likely to report being uncomfortable with going to the gym than those aged 18 to 24. Of those who reported being uncomfortable with going to the gym, 27.8% (a plurality) were aged 65 and older. 

Figure 2. Source: Google Data Studio

Below, we’ve detailed total share of responses for each response category according to the age of the respondent:

“No, not comfortable” Response Group

  • 18-24: 9.0%
  • 25-34: 16%
  • 35-44: 15.5%
  • 45-54: 14.3%
  • 55-64: 17.3%
  • 65+: 27.8%

“Yes, I am comfortable” Response Group

  • 18-24: 14.9%
  • 25-34: 20.1%
  • 35-44: 18.1%
  • 45-54: 16.8%
  • 55-64: 14.1%
  • 65+: 16.0%

As indicated above, age was a strong predictor of one’s response. The older the respondent, the more likely that they would indicate being uncomfortable with going to the gym; whereas younger respondents were generally more likely to report feeling comfortable with gymgoing, especially those aged 18 to 34. 

These findings become even more stark when you account for the sampling biases in the survey (view “Bias Table” below). Those aged 65 and older accounted for 21.1% of the survey population, whereas only 7.8% of respondents were aged 18 to 24. Therefore, those aged 18 to 24 were 91% overrepresented in the “Yes, I am comfortable” response group.  

Survey Results by Gender

With respect to gender, men were significantly overrepresented in the “Yes, I am comfortable” response group relative to women. Despite consisting of only 35.5% of the survey’s population, men submitted 54.2% of the “Yes” responses, indicating an overrepresentation of 53%

In aggregate, men were 18.5% more likely to report feeling comfortable going to an indoor gym than women were. 

Figure 3. Source: Google Data Studio

Survey Results by Region 

Regarding regionally differences in survey responses, the findings were less significant. Although there were variations in the differential between response groups according to geographical region, each region surveyed responded “No, not comfortable” in the majority. 

Below, we’ve listed the results for each of the four geographical regions utilized by Google Surveys for the purposes of this survey:

“No, not comfortable” Response Group

  • Midwest: 52.7% 
  • Northeast: 60.8%
  • South: 52.6%
  • West: 58.5%

Yes, I am comfortable” Response Group 

  • Midwest: 47.3%
  • Northeast: 39.2%
  • South: 47.4%
  • West: 41.5%

Stratified by region, the survey results indicate that the Midwest region (as defined by the U.S. Census Regions and Divisons) was the most likely to report being comfortable with going to indoor gyms (47.3%). By contrast, the Northeast region was the more likely to report being uncomfortable with indoor fitness environments (60.8%). 

Survey Methodology

Our survey was conducted over a 72-hour period between July 29 and July 31, 2022, with a sample size of 1,502 adults. Respondents resided in the United States, were at least 18 years of age, and were users of Google’s AdMob Network. 

The survey employed convenience sampling and weighted demographic indicators in order to include a nationally representative sample across genders, age groups, and socioeconomic statuses. 

Study Details and RMSE Score

  • Audience: Users of the AdMob Network and Google Surveys
  • Method: Convenience
  • Age: 18+
  • Gender: All genders
  • Location: United States
  • Language: English
  • Frequency: Once

Root mean square error (RMSE) is a weighted average of the difference between the predicted population sample (CPS) and the actual sample (Google). The lower the RMSE score, the smaller the total sample bias. 

Discussion Results and Final Word

These findings contradict earlier reports that stated that as many as 80% of American adults are now eager to hit the gym. At the same time, public interest in at-home workouts have fallen by 45% as more Americans take interest in communal fitness endeavors such as bodybuilding, boxing, and spinning. 

Yet many consumers are still apprehensive about returning to indoor fitness centres, gyms, and other spaces where close contact with others is probable. Our survey indicates that the majority of Americans aren’t ready to resume fitness training in public indoor settings at this stage in the pandemic.  

The latest data from the Mayo Clinic, released on July 29, 2022, reports that 67.2% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Despite the relative success of the COVID-19 vaccination rollout and booster campaigns, with over two-thirds of eligible Americans receiving at least two shots, the majority of Americans aren’t ready to make the leap back to pre-pandemic fitness regimens. 

Given that our survey results defy earlier reports and polling data, as well as many commonly held expectations following widespread vaccination, we hold that our findings bear significant and interest implications for the fitness industry and public policy. 

Considering that there are many who are still uncomfortable with indoor communal fitness—especially those who are women, aged 65 or older, and residing in the Northeast— fitness centres and public health agencies would do well to provide safe, at-home fitness alternatives targeted to those in this demographic group.  

Calisthenics: Your Gateway to Safe and Sustainable Fitness

Not feeling ready to make a return to the gym? Calisthenics might be the solution for you. A form of bodyweight strength training, calisthenics can be performed anywhere and by anyone regardless of their age or ability—right from the comfort of your living room. 

Those looking to lose weight, take control of their physical health, or sculpt a toned and muscular body can benefit from a calisthenics training practice. To see if calisthenics is right for you, book a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our friendly and non-judgmental expert calisthenics coaches today. 

Full Survey Report

For a closer look at the survey data, view the PDF report embedded in the screen below.


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