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How Millennial Males & Females Really Exercise, In 4 Charts

They’re the generation that made fit the new pretty—and we’ve got the data on how they’re working out now, and how males and females are working out differently…

When we wrote the trend Fit Gone Glam three years ago, we observed that young consumers’ health-consciousness had spun out into a new realm. Workout gear had infiltrated the fashion world where athleisure was on fire. (Note: It still is.) Fitness queens had taken over Instagram, where hashtags like #fitspo and #belfie connecting communities of young fitness enthusiasts, and accompany endless images of six packs and spandex clad booties. Exercise plans were  becoming almost cult movements. For Millennials, fitness wasn’t just about working up a sweat anymore—it was a full-on culture.

Since, we’ve only seen the fitness movement grow stronger. Exercise and fitness ranks as one of Millennials’ top hobbies, and it’s a top passion for both males and females. In our 2018 health and fitness survey, 81% of 18-35-year-olds agreed with the statement “being ‘fit’ is the new ‘pretty,’” and 91% say it’s cool to work out these days. An impressive 68% tell us that staying fit is a big part of their life. When ask how often they work out or engage in a physical fitness activity, only 4% say never. With fitness such a big part of so many Millennials’ lives, mindsets, and spending, we’ve dug into the details around exactly how the work out.    

To start with, just how often are they exercising? Nike’s popular Instagram would have you believe it’s all day every day. And while that’s not quite true, we do find that for the majority it’s a regular part of their week. But there are definitely differences in how often males and females are breaking a sweat: 

While the majority of both groups are exercising a few times a week, males 18-35-years-old are more likely than females to say that they are working out weekly, and more likely to say that they’re working out daily as well. When we look at the breakdown of these categories, both groups are most likely to say they work out once or twice a week, but males are slightly more likely than females to say they work out three to four times a week. 

And where are they doing their workouts? Though fitness classes that feel like cult movements and apps like ClassPass might make it feel like Millennials are all flocking to their gyms for these group experiences, we found a slightly different story in the data:

Interestingly, Millennial females are most likely to say that they like to work out at home, with almost two in five saying that’s their preference. Males are more likely to say they like to work out at the gym, while females are more likely than males to say that they prefer to take those infamous fitness classes. (More on those in a bit.) 

Not surprisingly, Millennial males are more likely to tell us they have a gym membership than females, and those males who have a membership are more likely to say they go a few times a week than females who have a membership. 

On top of where and how often they’re working out, we also asked young fitness enthusiasts what kinds of workouts they’re actually doing, and some more clear differences appeared:

While walking/hiking is the top type of workout for both males and females, females are far more likely to say that they’re walking or hiking, while running ties as the top activity among males. Females are also more likely than males to say that they’re using the treadmill and elliptical, while males were more likely to say they swim, box, and do triathalon or Iron Man training. 

Now, about those exercise classes. What kinds are they most likely to take part in? 

Millennial females are most likely to take a yoga class while Millennial males are most likely to take a cross training or CrossFit class. Overall, as mentioned before, classes are more popular among females, but those males who are taking classes have varied interests. 

To download the PDF version of this insight article, click here.