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3 Things Brands Should Know About Young Europeans’ Fitness Routines

We know that health and fitness are important to Gen Z and Millennials. But after two years of lockdowns, how are they exercising now? Three stats tell the story…


  • After two gym-less years, many young Europeans are paying for memberships again, and gyms are now their preferred way to work out
  • But at-home fitness is far from over, and one-third are paying for fitness content
  • Brands should keep in mind that exercise is no longer just about looking good as young consumers focus even more on their mental health

Gen Z and Millennials have been wellness-focused generations for some time now, so much so that their dedication has actually complicated and redefined the very definition of “wellness,” which we explored in our just-published trend report. But the pandemic brought health even more to the forefront for these gens, and young Europeans are now focused on improving and maintaining their mental and physical wellbeing. At the beginning of the year, two in five young Europeans told YPulse they were committed to improving their mental and physical health this year, with nearly as many saying they were at least going to try. Meanwhile, when we asked young Europeans to tell us what they started doing during the pandemic that they want to keep doing, “focus on my mental / physical health” topped the list, and exercising is a top-five top-five pastime for them. And our recent WE Fitness report found that over four in five young Europeans care about their health and being healthy.

Of course, the pandemic also altered how and where young Europeans worked out. With gyms closed and outdoor exercise prohibited in some areas, at-home workouts dominated the fitness landscape. But as young consumers continue to move into their new normal and the world opens back up again, how do these gens prefer to work out now? Three stats from our recent WE Fitness report shed light on young Europeans’ new routines—and why brands need to know about it:

Young Europeans are getting back to the gym

As COVID swept through Western Europe last year, fitness centers reportedly lost 40% of their operable days, making 2021 yet another year of doing burpees in the living room. But despite the closures, the fitness industry showed signs of recovery last year, with gym memberships increasing by 1 million in Europe in 2021. In other words, many Europeans held out hope for the return of normal life—and were willing to spend on it. Indeed, 41% of young Europeans tell YPulse they currently have a gym membership, and three in ten say they’d rather work out at the gym, making it their preferred setting. This return to the gym is helped in no small part by the rise of #gymtok, TikTok’s space for all things fitness. The platform is now home to a new generation of fitness influencers who are providing plenty of inspiration to young fitness buffs, and Gen Z in particular.

But that’s not to say gyms are dominating the fitness landscape in Western Europe. In fact, nearly as many young Europeans say they would prefer to work out outside as say they prefer the gym, and when we ask how they’re working out, “outside activities” and “sports” are their top answers. And though 41% are paying for a gym membership, they’re spending on other types of fitness too…

More than a third are paying for fitness content

At-home workouts took off during the pandemic, leading to a boom in spending on fitness apps and other lockdown-friendly exercise gadgetry. A study from Global Data found that more than half of U.K. consumers have done home workouts since March 2020, 31% of whom didn’t exercise regularly pre-pandemic, and spending on health and fitness apps grew by 70% year-over-year in Europe in 2020. But even as life returns to normal, at-home fitness is still rising: in the first quarter of 2021, spending on health and fitness apps in Europe grew by 140% year-over-year, indicating that, for many young consumers, at-home workouts are here to stay. In fact, 36% pay for workout content, and 23% tell YPulse that they prefer to work out at home rather than the gym or outdoors. Brands in the industry need to keep in mind that young Europeans are not one-workout-fits-all—and that means there’s room for offers, marketing, and products that focus on heading to the gym as well as staying fit at home.

And exercise is as much about their mental health as their physical fitness

In the process of redefining wellness, working out has become as much about mental health as physical for young Europeans. While mental health has been a priority for Gen Z and Millennials for a while now, it became an even bigger focus during the pandemic—and it’s during this time that many young people started using exercise to improve their mental wellbeing. Now, 83% of young Europeans agree, “working out is just as much for mental health as physical health,” and when we ask these gens why they exercise, 41% say to improve their mental health, making it their No. 2 answer after “to stay healthy.” Millennials especially are focused on improving their mental health, and they’re even more likely to say they work out for this purpose, as well as to relieve stress and frustration. Fitness brands need to keep in mind that looking good isn’t young consumers’ top priority, and should pivot their messaging to reflect a more holistic approach to wellness.

YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Fitness behavioral report and data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Western Europe Business account? Find out more here.