Britain’s Fitness Habits Revealed

3 Minute Read

An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students
An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students

New research by Mintel into the nation’s fitness habits has found a worrying 30% of Brits admit they rarely or never do any sport or exercise. A quarter of Brits (24%) said they struggle to motivate themselves to exercise on their own, with cost being the number one reason for not using a public leisure centre or swimming pool (24%). One in five blame their lethargy on lack of time to keep fit and as many as 15% admit to feeling uncomfortable going to the gym or swimming pool because they feel too unfit.

Mintel’s research found the nation’s men are more active than women, with just over a quarter (27%) admitting to little or no exercise compared to 34% of women. The study also highlighted young people are less likely to participate in sport and exercise, with almost one in five (19%) admitting they do not do any.

“The research finds that a significant chunk of the population rarely or never exercises,” says Michael Oliver, Senior Leisure Analyst at Mintel. “The leisure centres and swimming pool industry can engage with apathetic consumers in a number of ways; the most obvious way is trial, perhaps by way of offering a reward in return for meeting a challenge (e.g. cycle or run on a machine for two minutes) or simply bringing exercise machines to places where people go in large numbers, such as a shopping centre or high street. Alternatively, they could consider utilising mobile facilities and taking them into the heart of neighbourhoods.”

While a core group of the nation are not exercising, outdoor exercise remains very appealing for those that like to keep fit. 16% said they often ride a bike outdoors for exercise, 14% enjoy running or jogging outdoors and 4% prefer doing watersports such as surfing, sailing and rowing.

Exercising in the comfort of our homes also proved to be a popular option. A quarter of Brits (23%) exercise at home – using weights, workout videos and following computer game workouts. Additionally, the importance of technology in keeping fit was also identified – one in twenty (6%) use a health and fitness mobile app.

“A number of factors work to drive home exercise, including self-consciousness, cost and convenience,” says Michael. “Many people tend to be self-conscious about their bodies, so the opportunity to work out in the privacy of their own home is a strong pull. Additionally, if they are parents, it also means they do not have to make childcare arrangements. Cost is a factor because once some home exercise equipment has been purchased; there is no ongoing monthly expenditure.

A number of factors work to drive home exercise, including self-consciousness, cost and convenience

“Outdoor exercise also represents a major competitor to the fitness industry with the main advantage that after initial investment in equipment – whether it’s a pair of trainers or a bicycle – there is little in the way of regular ongoing outlay,” adds Michael.

People living in Yorkshire and Humberside were found to be the biggest non-fitness culprits, with 34% admitting to doing little or no exercise. London boasts the highest level of fitness participation, with just a fifth (21%) admitting they rarely or never exercise.


Lee Cain

Lee Cain

Writer, Tutor and Experienced Fitness Professional

Lee has over 20 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry and has performed multiple roles, including physical training instructor, strength and conditioning coach, lecturer, writer, tutor, assessor and verifier for vocational qualifications. He has a passion for all things exercise, with his key specialisms being strength and performance-based training.

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