- Almost half (49.5%) of Brits are getting less exercise while lockdown measures are in place than they were beforehand.
- 1 in 3 (32.1%) are getting more exercise than before.
- Those getting more exercise, are getting over 2 hours more on average.
- Those getting less exercise are getting over 2 hours less on average.
- Over 4 in 10 (43.3%) people are using online workouts (YouTube/Livestreams).
- Three-quarters (74.6%) of people caring for children are exercising alongside them.
- Read the full article for all the stats we uncovered
In a matter of days, our daily routines were thrown out of the window and subject to vast re-arrangements due to the need to socially distance ourselves from one another to tackle the global COVID-19 crisis. There are many ways in which our daily lives are temporarily different from just a month ago. A critical part of our daily life that has been upended is our exercise routines. Needless to say, we’re proponents of how beneficial being physically active is, both from a physical and mental health perspective. The World Health Organisation agrees and specifically notes the importance of maintaining levels of physical activity during the pandemic despite it being somewhat harder to do so.
While the fitness industry had already taken significant strides to add digital offerings for an ever-changing population that demand more flexibility than ever before in their exercise routines, the current situation has forced the hand of many to accelerate exercise offerings that don’t require gyms, extensive equipment, or even trips outside.
On March 20th the UK government enacted strict lockdown measures to combat the spread of Coronavirus. We aimed to gather insight into:
- How Brits are incorporating exercise into their lockdown routines, if at all.
- The proportion of people are exercising more or less than usual.
- How people rate the quality of their adapted exercise regimes.
- How this experience could affect exercise routines in the future.
To do this we conducted a survey of 1,000 Brits.
Lockdown: How much exercise are people getting?
Most people generally get the majority of their exercise from walking/running outside or visiting a gym. Therefore the current global crisis has a clear impact on the nation’s ability to keep up with their usual exercise routine. All gyms are closed and while you can go outside for the purpose of exercise the recommendations are that people don’t travel too far.
We asked our respondents how much exercise they typically got in a week before lockdown began. We also asked them how much exercise they have typically been getting per week since lockdown began (the UK had strict social distancing measures in place for exactly three weeks at the time the survey was carried out).
With barriers in place for activities like hiking, visiting the gym/sports centre, running long distances, etc. it’s no surprise that many people are getting less exercise than they were pre-lockdown. Our results show that 49.5% of people are currently spending less time engaging in exercise than they would do typically.
On the contrary, while 18.4% report they are getting the same amount of exercise, almost 1 in 3 (32.1%) people are actually getting more exercise since lockdown began.
Perhaps most surprising is the size of the effect for both groups who have experienced changes in the amount of time exercised.
For the 49.5% of people who are exercising less, they are doing so by an average of 2 hours 7 mins. That’s a huge difference. What about those who are exercising more? They are doing 2 hours 10 minutes more exercise on average than they were pre-lockdown.
To some degree, the size of the differences can be explained by the fact that those who are now exercising less had significantly higher average exercise times pre-lockdown. Those people averaged 243 minutes of exercise per week compared to 118 minutes for those who now exercise more.
The results show that a significant number of people are experiencing each possibility; doing a similar amount of exercise, doing less exercise, or doing more. But the swings are huge (on average) for those who aren’t sticking to a similar amount.
The consequence is that people who generally exercise more have less ability to increase that amount as it’s already at a high level. While those with lower totals have more room to increase that. Therefore it’s not necessarily the case that if someone is exercising less during lockdown that they are doing dangerously little physical exercise.
In general, if lockdown has caused a shift in your exercising behaviour, it tends to be a significant change. Either people are spending far less time exercising, or far more. Whether you are working out more already, or need some extra motivation to keep up your levels, try our definitive workout playlist to power your home workouts.
Possible reasons for exercising more now
More free time: A common reason offered by our respondents was that they simply have more free time at the moment and exercise is one of the things they are doing to fill that time.
A new awareness of other options: Often necessity is the only motivation to try something different from the status quo. We received many comments praising the quality of bodyweight workouts from people who didn’t previously think such workouts would be very effective.
The motivation provided by family members: Seeing family members exercising at home may provide the motivation to get involved.
Getting fitter and healthier as a preventative measure: Following advice that being physically fit and healthy is a valuable defence should one, unfortunately, become infected with COVID-19.
The variety I can do at home is outstanding. Changing my exercise plan has saved me money and increased my enjoyment of exercising again.
– Charlotte, 35
It's much better - this lockdown has helped me find a better routine with working out more regularly at home.
– Robbie, 29
Following a Youtube video is more engaging than I thought it would be – live-streamed but watching afterwards. And more fun! My family laugh and join in in parts, and although I am missing working out with friends I am finding new ways to do the things I enjoy
– Rachel, 18
I'm enjoying working from home much more. I usually used to work all day then try to go to the gym after when I had little energy. Now I can start my day with a workout and it gives me much more energy. I'm also a lot less self-conscious working out at home
– Christine, 28
Possible reasons for exercising less now
Unable to access usual channels: Needless to say, the closure of gyms and sports centres – as well as the postponement of any organised sport – adds barriers for many to get their usual exercise in.
No alternative to usual routine: Some forms of exercise are easier to replace while in lockdown than others. For a person who normally exercises by walking, yoga, or even in-studio classes, it’s easier to find alternatives that can be done at home that closely match the usual routine, compared to someone who generally gets their exercise by playing sport or weightlifting for example.
Lack of motivation for alternatives: While it may be impossible to directly replace some common forms of exercise there are alternatives. But where there is less motivation to do so it’s likely going to result in less time spent exercising. For example, a person who is active in their local badminton club likely has a genuine joy for the game which provides it’s own motivation to exercise. An at-home workout alternative could offer similar levels of physical activity but likely don’t motivate the person to the same degree.
Mental Health: It’s a difficult time for everyone and a lack of motivation to engage in physical exercise can easily manifest when people feel low.
It's worse [working out at home], in that it doesn't offer the routine or camaraderie of the weightlifting sport club I ordinarily attend three times a week. My limited equipment at home doesn't allow me to perform most of my usual exercises (snatch, clean & jerk, back squats)
– Stephen, 34
Exercising at home is much harder as I have to fit it around work. I don't have that distinction between work and home so I find I'm much more unproductive and less able to use my time effectively
– Tiffany, 21
Much harder to get motivated. If you don't have the right equipment and you're a regular weight lifter it is incredibly difficult to train with the usual intensity. But I have found cardio, which I usually avoid at all costs, to be very rewarding and a lot easier than I imagined
– Helen, 23
What Are The Most Popular Lockdown Exercise Methods?
Almost three-quarters (73.1%) of those surveyed are getting at least some of their exercise by walking outside which is a great way to get some quality exercise providing appropriate social distancing is maintained.
Over 4 in 10 (43.3%) of people are using some form of online workout routine to help them keep physically active. Only 4% were using online resources for home workouts pre-lockdown representing a ten-fold increase.
Over 1 in 3 (34.1%) people are exercising using home gym equipment they already owned, while 21.8% report following a live-streamed workout and 32.3% have specifically used YouTube videos to source workouts.
Family Ties: Lockdown Exercise With Kids
Of those that we surveyed who are looking after children at the current time, we found that three-quarters (74.6%) of them are exercising with their children during this period. A further 13% are providing their children with digital resources (e.g. Joe Wicks online PE classes) for them to get their exercise.
Current Exercise Changes: Temporary Or Long-Lasting Effects?
Behavioural change is hard. Human beings are very reluctant to change established behaviours. But a sudden shake-up in order and routine is exactly the type of scenario where human behaviour can be upended on a significant scale at a rapid pace. We asked our respondents whether they anticipate changing their exercise routine as a consequence of what they had learned while adapting to exercising during lockdown.
Almost 4 in 10 (37.3%) people believe their exercise routines moving forward will change due to the experiences they’ve had altering their routine for lockdown. This effect was particularly strong for younger respondents with Gen Zers with 40% saying they would adjust compared with 33% of Gen Xers.
These results clearly indicate a shift. The home gym market was trending positively before COVID-19 was a thing as a consequence of both people working out more and people wanting more flexibility in their workout schedule. This is a trend that is clearly going to be accelerated even after lockdown restrictions are alleviated.
How do people plan to adapt? Of those who plan to adapt their routines moving forward, 44% plan to incorporate YouTube workouts into their general routine after things return to “normal”. Additionally, 33% plan to incorporate more home bodyweight workouts, 26% will incorporate more yoga, 24% plan to buy more home gym equipment, and Almost 20% plan to include online live-streamed workouts.
The variety I can do at home is outstanding. Changing my exercise plan has saved me money and increased my enjoyment of exercising again
– Stephanie, 35
Will This Affect Time In The Gym?
Interestingly, only 17% plan to spend less time in the gym once things return to normal, while 10% of those who cite the gym as their main source of exercise will spend less time exercising there post-lockdown. This suggests that some gym-goers are going to supplement that gym-time with at-home workouts for additional gains. But a significant amount of peoples are expecting to spend less time in the gym.
These data suggest that post-COVID-19 gyms will struggle to maintain the membership levels they enjoyed before the crisis.
The variety I can do at home is outstanding. Changing my exercise plan has saved me money and increased my enjoyment of exercising again
– Kate, 35
Perceived Quality of Lockdown Exercise
We’ve covered that plenty of people are getting less exercise than before lockdown while plenty of others are getting more. But how do they rate the quality of the exercise they are getting?
Of those surveyed, 22% report that the exercise they are currently getting is ‘better’ or ‘much better’ than their usual quality of exercise. Furthermore, 23.4% say it’s the same quality. Almost half feel as though whatever exercise they are getting is of lower quality than they would usually get.
Home Gym Equipment Purchases
Such a drastic temporary shift in everyone’s lifestyle has caused significant changes to consumer behaviour. We saw trends emerge that suggested a massively increased demand for home gym equipment before the social distancing measures became stricter on March 20th.
We explored this further by asking respondents whether they had attempted to purchase various home gym equipment items since lockdown had begun.
One in 4 (24.7%) of those surveyed report having tried to buy some home gym equipment since lockdown began, while 15% have tried to buy multiple items. Of the items we asked about, dumbbells and free weights were the most sought after items.
However, only 35% of those who have tried to buy dumbbells were able to do so, 30% couldn’t find any in-stock, and 35% could only find ones that were too expensive
Only 30% of those trying to buy free weights were able to do so, while 32% couldn’t find any stock, and 38% claim the only ones they could find were too expensive.
Our survey results offer significant insights into the way adults in the UK are handling their exercise routines during this pandemic. It's clear that many people are struggling to maintain the exercise levels they were reaching pre-lockdown due to the inaccessibility of so many core exercise facilities. However, there are a substantial number of people who have been pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of many at-home options for exercising. This is having such a strong effect on many of us that we are getting significantly more exercise now than before.
Whether you are getting more or less exercise now, what's important is that you are doing enough to maintain your physical health. Make use of the options that are available to you; go for a walk, a run, search youtube for at-home circuits you can try, give something completely new a try – perhaps you've always been tempted by a spot of yoga?
If you’re struggling to spend as much time exercising as you would normally, a positive step instead could be to enhance your fitness knowledge. You can find information about 15 of the best fitness books out there here.
These data also paint an interesting picture for the fitness industry in a post-COVID19 world. With almost 40% of our respondents reporting that they will make changes to their typical exercise routines even after things return to 'normal', it's clear that the market for home gyms and modern digital delivery of workouts – which was already trending positively – is set to boom.
In April 2020, we surveyed exactly 1,000 people living in the UK aged between 18 and 60 about their exercise routine before and after March 20th when the UK introduced strict stay-at-home 'lockdown' measures.
Men and women were equally represented and the age profile of respondents is representative of the population at large for this age range.
We recruited our survey respondents using an independent academic research platform.