The pandemic threatened young people’s health and shifted their routines, but with a renewed focus on their health and wellness, what top trends are Gen Z and Millennials interested in now?
While Gen Z and Millennials have been known for their focus on wellness and health, their efforts took a hit in 2020. With a global pandemic threatening their health, massive changes to daily routines, and anxiety at a high, wellness took a backseat for some. For instance, YPulse’s health, drugs, and risky behavior research found that 55% of 13-39-year-olds say that overall they have an unhealthy diet, compared to 37% in 2019. But of course, that isn’t the full story: the pandemic year also sparked new health-related trends, with at-home workouts increasing in popularity. Brands like exercise bike company Peloton reported seeing a 172% increase in sales last fall, while smart home gyms and other equipment like smart rowers, boxing gloves, mirrors, kettlebells, vertical climbing machines, and treadmills have seen a huge surge in sales as well. So, COVID changed wellness priorities in many ways.
We told you that young consumers’ planned on renewing their focus on health this year, with the majority telling YPulse they wanted to start 2021 with a healthier mind and body. Now that we’re more than halfway through 2021, we checked in on what wellness trends have been earning their interest this year. Our most recent fitness behavioral report asked young consumers, “What is the biggest health/wellness trend you’ve been interested in recently?” Here are their top responses:
The Biggest Health & Wellness Trends They’re Interested In
- Exercise / Fitness
- COVID-19 vaccine/ precautions
- Keto diet
- Weight loss / Dieting
- Healthy/Balanced diet
- Emotional/mental health
- Intermittent fasting
- Liquid Chlorophyll
- Low carb / calorie / sugar diet
- Fitness tracking
The top wellness trend Gen Z and Millennials’ say they’re interested in is Exercise / Fitness. After being cooped up inside (and indulging in comfort foods) for most of the year, exercise has become a focus for many. YPulse’s fitness behavioral data found that 71% of 13-39-year-olds agree: “Fitness is more of a priority to me this year,” while 58% say they planned to work out more after they’ve been vaccinated. Speaking of vaccinations, COVID-19 vaccine / precaution is their second top response. Even though lockdowns have started easing up, the virus hasn’t completely gone away, and there’s still growing concerns around the new Delta variant. Young consumers are slowly going back to their normal activites, but clearly remaining safe from COVID remains a top concern.
The last time we wrote about this topic in 2019, the Keto diet was their top response—and it’s still trending. Though the protein-focused diet has moved down two spots since then to third place it’s clear that it’s still something they’re interested in—as are restrictive diets in general. Vegetarian / Vegan was seventh in the rankings (and previously made their top food trends). According to a Produce Blue Book report, 65% of Gen Z want a more “plant-forward” diet, while 79% have been choosing to go meatless once or twice a week. Plenty of things contributed to it sticking around even during the pandemic: In general, the plant-based trend accelerated in the last year as more companies invested in meatless food and online creators (we’re looking at you, Tabitha Brown) showcased quick, easy-to-make vegan dishes. Themed month-long holidays like “Veganuary” grew by 50% this year.
Meanwhile, it’s clear that weight loss has become a bigger priority for many young people after a year of more lax eating. Weight loss / Dieting ranked fourth on the list, low calorie, low carb, and low sugar diets also made the top ranking, along with intermittent fasting. Females were more likely to say weight loss was the wellness trend they are interested in than males. According to an APA survey, over half (61%) of adults in the U.S. report “undesired weight changes” since COVID started. Levi’s reported that 35% of Americans’ waistlines changed during COVID, while the NPD Group cited in April that 25% of women and girls say they wore a larger size—and some people are reportedly trying to lose it before returning to the office. As mentioned, over half of young consumers say they indulge in unhealthy foods, so by prioritizing healthier diets and weight loss, and dieting overall is something they seem to be bringing back into their lives.
Emotional / mental health ranked sixth on the list, and YPulse’s State of Mind trend research found that 54% of 13-39-year-olds say their mental health was negatively impacted by the Coronavirus. Our data also found that 77% of 13-39-year-olds say maintaining their mental health has become more important to them during the crisis, while 59% say they’ve been going the extra mile to take care of mental health during this time. Reducing stress was already on their list of resolutions. As a way to combat stress and anxiety, many 13-39-year-olds dabbled in different activities like making playlists (79%), taking a “mental health day” (66%), tried to meditate regularly (65%), tried holistic remedies (54%)—and even trying a new exercise (76%) or trying a new diet (62%).
Skincare rounded out the top 10 rankings. During quarantines, young consumers wore less makeup and instead prioritized their skincare routines. YPulse’s beauty and personal care report explored how young females actually did put more of an effort in their skincare routine, while 22% tell us researched skin care since COVID started. Perhaps the most surprising new trend to make young people’s rankings this year is Liquid Chlorophyll. In the last year, young users have been drinking liquid chlorophyll (a.k.a. the concentrated form of the naturally derived substance that gives plants their green pigment and is found in green vegetables) on TikTok, more prominently on “SkinTok,” as a way to clear their skin. So far, the hashtag #chlorophyll has 362.3M million views on the app. One of the most-viewed videos is from user @ellietaylor929, whose clip has 13.5 million views, where she starts off by showing her irritated and acne-filled skin, and documents the results of her week-long drinking of a “dessert spoon-size” worth of liquid chlorophyll in her water everyday—as her skin texture and redness stars to change and fade. When we looked at the differences between Gen Z and Millennials rankings, we noticed that the liquid chlorophyll trend ranked higher and was overall more popular with teens. But there’s an answer to that: It is after all a popular trend on TikTok, and we’ve told you before how Gen Z is more likely to be on the platform than Millennials.
More health and wellness trends, like walking (Forty-nine percent of 13-39-year-olds say they take part in walking / hiking), fitness tracking, and gym, that involve getting out of the house, took the last few spots of the list. YPulse’s health and fitness report from last year found that 48% of 13-39-year-olds cancelled a gym membership. But according to an Orangetheory Fitness study, 30% of Americans say they miss exercising in a gym and seven in 10 say they miss the workout routines they had before the pandemic. Our research also found that 72% of 13-39-year-olds who have been regularly working out say they’ve been enjoying working out at-home, and while we don’t think at-home workouts are going to go ahead post-COVID, there are some young consumers who are itching to get back to the gym. However, at-home brands like HelloFresh, Tonal, Skillshare, and Nurx have expressed how they aren’t worried since staying at home has taught young consumers that telehealth is more accessible than traditional healthcare options, and that interactive at-home workout equipment can be more effective than mindlessly trying out new things at the gym. So, while young people are eager to get out more in the coming months, it’s unlikely they will “leave behind the benefits of going fully virtual.”
Brands should keep in mind that while some of the health and wellness trends that young consumers were interested in before have shifted in priority, exercising and staying fit as well as focusing on healthier diets are still important to them. Clearly, as COVID-19 lingers, finding ways to continue protecting themselves against it will continue to be a top priority for them in months to come—knowing that they’re likely going to balance their old post-pandemic activities with things they can still do at home.
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