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Why Over Half Of Us Go To The Gym To Manage A Health Condition

Physiotherapist helping female patient with rehabilitation. Balance exercise with bosu ball.

Working off the winter mince pies and jumping back into new fitness routines sees millions of Brits head to the gym this week to start their year in the right way. But today, motivations go far deeper than just getting in shape, according to new research from ukactive.

While many people’s New Year’s resolution to lose weight and get in shape remains crucial for improving health, ukactive’s Consumer Engagement Polling* of more than 2,000 adults carried out by Savanta reveals the new driving forces for millions when it comes to getting active.

The research shows that more than half of Brits (55%) say that their gym membership is important in helping them to manage a short- or long-term health condition, indicating that millions are realising the benefits of exercise to prevent, improve and manage serious health conditions.

The key motivating factors also extend beyond the physical, with 78% of respondents saying that improving their mental health and wellbeing – including managing anxiety and/or depression – was important in their decision to take out a gym membership.

Modern motivations behind a gym membership

  • 78% said it improves their mental health and wellbeing.
  • 75% said it improves their overall confidence.
  • 66% said to improves their sleep.
  • 55% said it helps them manage a short- or long-term health condition.
  • 43% said it helps them make new friends.

In the context of the nation’s declining health – with over 7.71 million Brits currently awaiting treatment on the NHS and over 35.2 million working days being lost in 2022-23 due to self-reported work-related ill health or injury – it is reassuring to see Brits recognising and benefitting from the effects of physical activity to look after their own health and wellbeing.

However, the Government must do more to support greater incentivisation and access for more people from more communities to feel the benefits of physical activity.

Britain’s poor record on health is not only impacting the nation socially, but it’s costing the economy £43bn a year – a clear reminder that prioritising the nation’s health will lead to economic growth too.

January is the busiest month for heading to the gym across the UK with data from 4GLOBAL’s DataHub for the past two-years revealing that January is 28% busier than December, and 10% busier than the previous October, November and December combined**.

This is supported by data from PureGym revealing that its gyms were nearly 40% busier in January 2023 than in the two months previous.

Data internationally from the IHRSA concurs, with more than 12% of new members choosing to join a gym in January to start their New Year’s resolutions.

January’s boost in participation has a really positive impact, but for there to be a meaningful shift in the health of the nation and our economic inactivity levels, these numbers need to be maintained and increased throughout the year.

That is why ukactive is making the case for greater Government investment in the physical activity sector to build on these motivations, make fitness accessible for all and encourage more people to look after their health.

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive said: “Our gyms and leisure centres will be busy this month as the nation heads down to their local facility to begin or continue their fitness journey.

“Our research is a clear reminder that our facilities are not just locations to build physical fitness but are fundamental places for the population to prioritise their own health and wellbeing as well as managing a range of short and long-term health conditions.

“The green shoots of how we seek to improve our poor public health lie in these instinctive public motivations. That’s why it’s so important that any current or future Government makes the link to fitness and leisure facilities and businesses as a solution to many of the public health issues facing the nation today.”

*ukactive’s Consumer Engagement Polling and Insights carried out by Savanta polled 2,211 UK adults with gym memberships between September 2022 and September 2023.

These responses form part of the wider Consumer Engagement Polling that was carried out across four moments throughout the calendar year with a total of 8,069 respondents polled across all surveys, (data was collected in September 2022, March 2023, July 2023 and finally in September 2023).

**This figure from 4GLOBAL’s DataHub was calculated using data from 1,300 health and fitness clubs across the UK.

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