Is This the End of the Home Workout?

The search term "gym membership" has increased by nearly 200%

An athlete working out on the ground.
We used to be content with a set of resistance bands. But we want our classes back.
Photo by Eddie Keogh - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

There were some months that we did workouts with wooden chairs and milk jugs, and then there were months that we all tried to buy the same set of dumbbells at the same time, and then there were months that we said “Fuck it, what’s $49.95 a month?” and locked ourselves into albatross-like subscription services centered around connected fitness machines.

But here at the start of 2023, Americans are evidently sick of sweating next to their beds, in their garages or atop their rooftops — regardless of how archaic or advanced the fitness equipment they’ve retained from the darkest days of the pandemic is. This past week, the search term “gym membership” increased by 179%, setting an “all-time internet record” (according to a website called Financial World.)

And while that fact sounds a little made-up/impossible to prove, the Google Trends data is indisputable — since 2004, at least, adults have never been quite so keen to join a gym.

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Some takeaways from the data? The Americans most likely to search the term live in New York, California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maryland; their related “rising” search queries most commonly include the phrases “planet fitness,” “near me,” “la fitness,” and “how much is gym membership” (always a good ask); and the exact peak of all the searching occurred on January 2nd, at 2:00pm, which tracks — it was a federal holiday and hangovers were finally gone.

Ultimately, this represents a perfect storm of “new year, new me” resolutions and home workout disdain. It’s not that the optionality of the latter gotten any worse — they’ve actually grown in breadth and quality. Consider: YouTube remains a treasure trove of yoga content; you can now work out with specialized trainers on pretty much any apparatus you could possibly think of (climbers, punching bags, slide machines); and two huge names, Netflix and Nike, teamed up literally this week for a brand-new library of home workout content.

But American interest in home workouts has actually been waning for ages…since the summer of 2021. As the pandemic has eased up, adults have jumped at the opportunity to get out of the house. Gyms represent an escape, a gathering place, a crticial separation of church and state. And for many Americans, whether they even use their membership on a consistent basis is immaterial. (An absurd 67% of them go ignored for months on end!) We just like to know that we have the option, whenever the fitspo muse strikes.

As for the future of home workouts, expect the people who love their machines to continue loving their machines. (If you’re still working out with milk jugs…email us and explain yourself, we’ll dedicate a full profile to your bizarre persistence.) But expect most committed trainees (if they haven’t already) to reunite with track clubs, jiu-jitsu studios, climbing gyms, etc. And don’t be surprised when casual Googlers are drawn to gyms nearby — instead of those video libraries, that are technically much closer.

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