Gen Z will have a bigger impact on the fitness market than any generation before them, presenting a transformative opportunity for clubs to drive record growth.
That’s according to Gen Z Fitness: Cracking the code – a new global report examining Gen Z fitness habits, their motivations to work out, and the barriers holding them back.
The Les Mills report is the biggest-ever study into Gen Z fitness, combining quantitative and qualitative insights from more than 4,000 young people aged 16 to 26 across North America, Europe and Asia.
As the largest generation ever and the next big global spending power, Gen Z represent a key battleground for clubs. The report examines the generational shift sweeping fitness and outlines how providers must continually evolve to keep pace with the expectations of young consumers.
Access the free report to uncover the must-have numbers, insights, and recommendations for achieving sustained success by winning with Gen Z. Here’s a snapshot of 7 key areas the report covers:
1. An untapped market
Having helped shape a culture where fitness is a social media mainstay, Gen Z are frequently dubbed ‘Generation Active’ – and 36% of them are already exercising regularly. But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
A further 50% of Gen Z want to work out regularly but say they need help getting started. Nurturing this untapped market requires an intimate understanding of the varied challenges they face. But for fitness brands that lean in and meet the nuanced needs of this cohort, the opportunities are endless.
Among non-exercisers, 68% want to start working out at home first, so being able to provide high-quality digital options is essential for clubs seeking to engage them.
2. Complex consumers
Often caricatured as smartphone-obsessed social media addicts, Gen Z are not to be underestimated.
While it’s true Gen Z spend more time (55% use phones 5+ hours per day) swiping than their elders; they’re also more diverse, socially conscious, digitally savvy and health-focused than any generation that’s gone before. And they have a much more enlightened view of fitness.
They grew up watching their parents yo-yo diet, follow fads, and flit from one short-lived fitness kick to another. But for Gen Z, health and fitness is a far more holistic experience. This is a generation working out for mental wellness, intrinsic motivation and the chance to be part of a community.
Four of Gen Z’s top five reasons to exercise are linked to health and happiness, with this demographic demonstrating a strong appreciation for the holistic benefits of activity. That said, they still want to look good, with 47% listing ‘improving their appearance’ as a key reason to work out.
3. They love choice
For club operators, providing plenty of choice for Gen Z is key to getting them through the front door. Of those working out regularly, 64% strongly agree that they like to choose different workouts, as well as discover new ones.
As one research participant notes: “I prefer lifting at the gym, but I also love boxing and whenever the weather is nice I'll be running along the lakefront.
“Then if I'm ever pressed for time, I'll do a home workout – either through an app, or I'll pull up a quick 30-45 minute video on YouTube and follow along.”
Understanding Gen Z’s motivations, goals and values is key to earning their loyalty during the critical window in their 20s when most people decide whether to join a gym, with many forming long-term attachments to their preferred fitness provider.
30% of Gen Z are already regularly working out in fitness facilities – a far higher figure than the total adult population, which typically ranges between 15-25%, depending on the market.
And with 50% of Gen Z yet to start regularly exercising, there’s a golden opportunity to engage many more young people with club offerings that meet their needs for flexibility and choice.
4. Here, there and everywhere
Having grown up with Amazon Prime and Uber Eats at their fingertips, Gen Z expect flexible fitness solutions so they can work out wherever, whenever and however they want.
With 72% of regular exercisers taking a hybrid approach that sees them training both in and out of the gym, providing an Omnifitness experience (comprising both live and digital workout options) which suits their lifestyle is a must.
And when clubs strike the right balance right, Gen Z will stick around. Hybrid trainers are 40% more likely to have been a gym member for 3+ years compared to gym-only exercisers. They also manage to do 67% more workouts than gym-only exercisers (5.5 per week on average Vs 3.3).
Meanwhile, the report finds Gen Z gymgoers overall to be more loyal than they’re often given credit for: 61% of club members have been with their facility for between 6 months and two years.
By combining live exercise offerings with a digital solution, fitness providers can join the dots to support Gen Z’s preference for choice, social connection and workouts on demand. This makes maintaining their fitness routine easy on days when getting to the gym isn’t.
5. Strength in numbers
Despite digital fitness options being more prevalent than ever, the report finds strong Gen Z demand for working out with others in social settings. Of all regular exercisers, 82% are getting their sweat on in the gym (up from 64% in 2021) as Gen Z continues their rapid ascent to becoming the dominant fitness demographic.
Given their appetite for connection and community, it’s no surprise Gen Z are particularly drawn to the supportive environment of the studio. 81% of Gen Z gym-goers are taking part in group workouts, citing the energy of the group, fast results and the guidance of an Instructor as key factors attracting them to the studio
Strength Training is also driving Gen Z into the studio, ranking top of their preferred group workouts, up from 10th place in 2021.
But Gen Z are also paying close attention to their wider wellness, with recovery and mindfulness group workouts following close behind. Among Gen Z doing group workouts:
- 50% are doing strength training
- 35% are doing stretch / mobility
- 33% are doing Yoga
6. Under the Influence
When it comes to fitness apps, Influencers are living up to their name by holding significant sway over Gen Z regular exercisers.
71% are using a fitness Influencer’s free digital platform inside the club, while 76% look to Influencers for guidance at home.
But this doesn’t have to be a global megastar like Kayla Itsines. Gen Z consider an Influencer to be anyone who represents a brand they’re interested in – meaning gyms have significant opportunities to amplify their own star Instructors to drive awareness and win fans.
Over half (55%) of Gen Z agree that promoting trainers and Instructors as local fitness influencers is a high-impact way to create a strong sense of community (ABC Fitness 2023).
Shining a spotlight on the rockstars in your club’s team is a surefire recipe for creating authentic content that showcases the connection Gen Z are looking for. Your members are also a great source of content. Highlighting powerful and personal stories can help to nurture Gen Z prospects and accelerate their consideration journey.
7. Befriend the Black Mirror
Gen Z’s affinity for their phones means clubs have a constant opportunity to gain their attention and build trust if they can cut through with engaging content.
Two-thirds of Gen Z regular exercisers are doing workouts outside of the gym, with many working out using their phone. By providing fitness at their fingertips through accessible and engaging digital workouts, clubs can amplify their brand’s reach and drive meaningful connection.
With 48M Gen Z on TikTok in the US alone, researching trending hashtags and creating platform-specific content that reflects their values is a great way to get in front of them and start to tell your brand’s story. Meanwhile, mixing up your content and channels offers a great opportunity to reach a broad audience and keep your messaging fresh.
And as well as bringing the fun, highlighting the credibility of your club’s brand and the science underpinning your programming can help you to cut through the masses of online misinformation and build trust with your target audience.