‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions and new health goals. Resolving to eat better or work out is one of the most common objectives people set in January, but like most of 2020, things won’t look exactly the same this year. After months of lockdown and self-quarantine, many gyms are still unopened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and gyms that are open may not always be the safest spaces.
To further complicate health and fitness in the age of lockdown, the winter months mean it’s getting colder, wetter, and darker, which aren’t great combinations for people looking to stay active or set new workout routines for the year ahead.
So what are people doing to get moving this winter? To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 people about cardio, weight training, and interval workouts during COVID-19. Read on as we explore how many people are making an effort to stay fit this winter; how their routines have changed due to the pandemic; how they feel about working out in gyms; and how many are turning to virtual fitness classes as an alternative.
Winter is Coming
The winter months mean it will start getting darker earlier, and temperatures could be biting. Still, making room to work out despite the weather can be even more important than in the summer months to stay in shape and avoid the mood-dampening influence of seasonal affective disorder. Thirty-eight percent of people polled indicated planning to make major changes to their workout routines due to the winter season.
The most common winter workouts included indoor bodyweight training (54%), weight training (54%), indoor cardio (46%), and indoor interval training (36%). People taking up bodyweight (64%) or weight training exercises (62%) were more likely to indicate being very to extremely fit, while indoor cardio was most common among people who felt they weren’t at all fit (60%).
Despite the challenges of working out during the pandemic, 36% of respondents expected much more frequent workouts during the winter. Winter commitment was even higher among people who identified as “athletes” or “in good shape,” where 52% said they were planning to up their game in the cold months. The biggest winter challenges included lower temperatures (63%), getting darker earlier in the day (48%), snow and winter weather (45%), and the risk of COVID-19 (33%).
Changes to Exercise Routines in 2020
The winter weather and lack of outside light make working out challenging, even more now because of the pandemic. A major shift for some, 76% of people reported spending their time working out at home recently, compared to 47% who said they were still going to the gym, and 45% who had moved their exercising outside.
Getting into the gym might have been more challenging in 2020, but it’s still a highly effective way to work out, according to respondents. Compared to 44% of people working out at home and 59% of people working out outside, 70% of people said working out in a gym was very or extremely effective for them.
If you’re trying to shift your workout routines inside, you might need some equipment to get going. The most common purchases to enhance winter workouts included yoga mats (35%), free weights (33%), pullup bars (29%), treadmills (25%), and Bowflex free weights (25%).
Safety Working Out in Gyms
Among people who prefer to exercise at the gym, there’s a major roadblock standing between them and their favorite workout classes and equipment: the pandemic. Even among health club loyalists, there remains a looming concern that gyms themselves aren’t currently a safe place to work out and that opting to stay home or working out outside reduces the likelihood of coming into contact with COVID-19.
More than half of people surveyed (58%) said they believe going to the gym was extremely or very risky due to COVID-19 – more than felt it was unsafe to eat indoors at a restaurant (54%), eat outside at a restaurant (29%), or shop at the grocery store (27%). A majority believed gyms should mandate masks (68%), be cleaning their equipment more often (66%), have increased distance between equipment (64%), and limit capacity in the facility (58%).
Perhaps even more challenging, just 12% of people completely trusted their gyms to enact and enforce policies for their safety. More commonly, 27% said they have a moderate amount of trust in their gyms to prioritize safety, and 16% said they only slightly trust them to do so. Five percent of people had no trust at all that their gym would enact or enforce safety policies related to the pandemic.
Even though they aren’t going to the gym right now, 45% of people acknowledged they are very or extremely eager to get back in the gym once the pandemic has passed. In the meantime, 39% were very excited to sign up for virtual classes through their local gyms this winter, and another 26% were at least slightly excited by the prospect of virtual classes. For those who don’t mind the digital exercise experience, the good news is that there’s virtually no shortage of content as many of the major workout brands have pivoted to streaming workout classes directly into consumer’s homes as a result of the pandemic.
Twenty-four percent of people said they’re waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine before going back to the gym, though 23% are waiting for COVID-19 cases to subside in their area, while 20% of people surveyed said they still go to the gym regularly. Men (24%) were more likely than women (15%) to indicate still regularly visiting the gym during the pandemic. Millennials were the most likely generation to say they were waiting for a vaccine or virus cases to subside, compared to Generation X or baby boomers.
Going With the Flow
Like most of the major changes to our lives in 2020, the “new normal” may be sticking around for a while. The way we work out and exercise is no exception, although it may be more important than ever to find a routine that works for you, particularly in these winter months, to prioritize both physical and mental health.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a bigger disruption to our workout rhythms than the winter weather, and a vast majority of people are learning how to workout inside, even if that means buying new weights or other equipment to get the job done. As many indicate waiting for a vaccine or for COVID-19 cases to subside in their area before getting back to the gym, we may need to get comfortable with the idea of working out virtually for a while. It might not be perfect, but prioritizing health and safety is one of the most important things we can be doing for our bodies in 2020 and beyond.
Whether you’re working out at home or finding a rhythm outside, FitRated is here to make sure you get the best equipment to help you meet your exercise goals. With thousands of product reviews and a rating process based on hundreds of data points, you can feel confident selecting anything from treadmills to exercise bikes, or equipment for your home gym. Learn more online at FitRated.com today!
Methodology and Limitations
We surveyed 1,021 people who work out at least a few times per month about their winter workout routines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Fifty-three percent of respondents were men, and 47% were women. Around 60% were millennials, 27% were from Generation X, and 11% were baby boomers. Other generations were not used in our study.
Respondents chose the state where they currently live, and those states were grouped into U.S. regions for sample size purposes.
Survey projects have limitations due to self-report, such as telescoping, exaggeration, and selective memory. We did not weight our data or statistically test our hypothesis.
Fair Use Statement
Like working from home, working out from home won’t be going away anytime soon. Share the insights of this study with your readers for any noncommercial use. We only ask that you include a link back to this page in your story as credit to our team of creatives who helped make these findings possible.