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REVEALED: UK Experiences “Fitness Freeze” As Exercise Rates Drop During Winter


As the temperature drops across the UK, new research shows how a “fitness freeze” sees interest in exercise plummet during the cold winter months.

Combined with this decline is the fact that searches for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) see an average national rise of 113% in the same time period each year, demonstrating Britons have both mental and physical health challenges to contend with during the colder months in particular.

Leisure operator Better explored search data across the UK and in major cities to reveal significant declines in physical activity. Glasgow, Sheffield, and Bradford top the list of places with the biggest exercise drop during chilly weather.

Across the four UK nations, Scotland is at the forefront of the Fitness Freeze, with an average 30% decrease in searches for “gym routine”, “running routes”, and “workout routine” during the winter, which is perhaps understandable considering the colder temperatures north of the border. 

Meanwhile, Wales emerges as a beacon of winter workout enthusiasm. Despite the colder weather, the country experiences only a 9% decrease in exercise rates during the winter, suggesting that Welsh residents are more resilient to the fitness freeze compared to their UK counterparts.

Northern Ireland and England also exhibit a more moderate response to the winter chill, with decreases of 14% and 15% in exercise search interest, respectively.

When it comes to major cities, Glasgow emerges as the city least inclined to brave the cold for a workout, experiencing a substantial 36% decrease in fitness-related searches.

Sheffield and Bradford closely follow Glasgow, with both cities showcasing a 28% reduction. Leeds (-26%) and Liverpool (-25%) completed the top five cities with the biggest drop in workout motivation between October and December over the past four years.

On the flip side, Swansea and Preston emerge joint-top as the two cities where winter doesn’t deter fitness enthusiasts. With a surprising 29% increase in exercise rates during the colder months, the Welsh city and Lancashire location are both breaking the mould by embracing outdoor activities, even when the temperatures drop. 

Nottingham joins Swansea and Preston in the top three, defying the fitness freeze with a 25% increase in exercise interest during the winter, followed by Southampton (25%) and Leicester (23%).

In tandem with the fitness freeze, the winter months witness a surge in interest in Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Figures show an average increase of 113% in searches for the phrase between September and October each year.

As daylight hours decrease, many individuals find themselves grappling with the effects of SAD, a form of depression linked to changes in seasons, with winter being a particularly challenging period.

For more information on this research and for additional winter workout tips, visit the research page here: