In June, the Active People Survey by Sport England reported that a million fewer people are regularly taking part in sport than six months ago prompting theories that the dream of a lasting sporting legacy from London 2012 hasn’t quite gone to plan. However, the notable figure amid the stats is the drop in people hitting the gym. Could it just mean that we are swapping the gym for the great outdoors?
153,000 fewer people are regularly using a gym – the first time this figure has gone down in a decade. But with the recession finally turning a corner and no-frills, affordable gyms popping up on every corner – we can’t blame our wallets for the decline in numbers. Maybe gyms need to change the way they approach fitness in order to attract numbers. There seems to have been a cultural shift in the world of physical exercise and here are a few factors that could be behind this move.
We like to be outdoors
We’re not sure if it’s sun-drenched, fitspirational instagram pics or endless photos of sunset yoga on the beach that are to blame – but more people than ever are desperate to get outside for their fitness fix. Whether it’s running, open-water swimming or climbing – we are shunning stuffy gyms for picturesque backdrops and invigorating fresh air.
And who can blame us? The benefits of outside exercise range from saving money to improving your stamina and even lifting your mood. Why would you queue for a treadmill to stare at a wall for twenty minutes when you could be out breathing real air and feeling the sun on your face? And with running participation numbers jumping by 66,000 in just six months, it’s clear lots of us feel the same.
We like to be in control
Gym classes may have become too prescribed and rigid for the varied needs of the modern fitness addict. It’s no longer the case that we hit the gym just to lose weight – our needs are much more specific, and hugely diverse.
Whether you’re a new mum aiming to get your post-pregnancy fitness back, a triathlon pro hell-bent on improving your speed or a netball addict trying to improve your elevation – your needs are unique and won’t necessarily be met by a generic spinning class. And with new technology and apps allowing you to map every tiny detail of your fitness journey, it’s easier than ever to be in complete control without the help of your gym.
Whether you’ve got a FitBit on your wrist, a pedometer in your back pocket or a GoPro strapped to your head – everyone wants to get in on the gadget action. And it’s not just because it makes us feel like the James Bond of the fitness world – trackers and cameras allow us to get a new dimension out of our fitness. We’re no longer tied to a treadmill if we want to know how far we’re running, or forced to grip the sweaty, metal bars on the cross trainer if we want to know our heart rate.
We like to compete
It doesn’t matter if you’re competing against the pros, the clock or yourself – it’s no longer just the taking part that counts. We live in a culture where winning is everything – and you can’t win in the gym.
The huge influx of competitive events, from swims and runs to obstacle courses and tough mud races, shows that the demand for competition is growing year-on-year. Competitive events push you to your limit and give you the drive to perform at your best. Regularly putting yourself in competitive situations will benefit you away from sport as well, with many employers valuing competitive tenacity as a key skill in the workplace.
Even if you’re not a competitive nut, there is still much to be gained from the atmosphere of organised events. Whether you’re getting covered in paint at The Colour Run or jogging along to the latest chart hits at Run to the Beat, there are so many options to keep fit in a social way – and they all look way more fun than being stuck in the gym.
The Active People Survey results highlight a desperate need for gyms to up their game if they want to remain relevant in today’s fitness market. But it’s great to see that running and team sport numbers are continuing to grow – the important thing is that we don’t ditch the gym for the sofa.