At 8 a.m. on January 1, throngs of newcomers swarm gyms across the nation.
The “New Year, New Me” aura is like thick smoke in the air. The frustration of the regulars — who now have to kneecap supersets out of sheer politeness — is almost palpable.
The culprit: New Year’s Resolutions.
As much as you dread the January gym surge, you have to applaud their desire to improve and join the club you proudly represent. (Plus, it’ll whittle down by mid-February anyway).
Just how many of us see the new year as a fresh start toward our dream physiques? Check out these ten New Year’s resolution gym statistics to better understand the rush.
In January, Fitness-Related Google Searches Surge and Gyms See Membership Levels Rise
Despite the 40,000-odd gyms scattered from coast-to-coast, Americans are traditionally inactive. Research shows that as many as 80% of us don’t get enough weekly exercise.
So, it’s no surprise that we turn to the ever-trusty Google to learn more about the trek ahead.
Come early-January, fitness-related searches hit an all-time high. Newbies discover unlimited resources to learn about routines, protein supplements, and confusing fitness jargon.
And yet, this enormous fitness interest doesn’t always translate into action. The IHRSA reports that just 10.8% of people will register for gym memberships in January.
Despite 24/7 access and a surge in motivation, only 18% of gym membership-holders will make regular visits — that equates to about 11 million of us.
Fifty Percent of People Set an Exercise-Related Resolution
The relationship between physical activity and American culture is undoubtedly strained. The average American walks just 4,774 steps a day — 1,415 steps shy of top-ranked China.
And despite that, it’s not just a lack of exercise that damages the nation’s health.
Nearly 60% of Americans suffer from a chronic illness, many of which are lifestyle diseases and manageable with regular exercise (i.e., Heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity).
Whether it’s due to an eye-opening doctor’s check-up, a family’s coaxing, or post-holiday weight gain, as many as 50% of resolution-makers choose to exercise as their #1 goal.
Of course, for us “shallower” folks, the race for the perfect physique stands tall. The January brigade also includes those looking to bulk, shred, and get an early start on that summer body.
By February, 4 in 5 People Ditch Their Fitness New Year’s Resolutions Entirely
The first few weeks of a routine are wildly exciting, and you eagerly await the results in the mirror and on the scale. But by February 4, most of your fellow comrades will go AWOL.
The glaring question is: Why? The explanation is two-fold.
One: Habits are hard to break and even harder to make. On average, it takes 66 days for a habit to become “automatic” (Like clockwork: Wake up, shower, go to the gym, etc.).
And yet, making it to that 66-day mark is the greatest obstacle of all. The allure of daily workouts, dripping sweat, and sore muscles understandably fade by February 4 — day 35.
Two: Results appear mysteriously fast during the first six weeks of weight loss and lifting. But when the body finally adjusts to the water loss and sudden exercise influx, you hit a plateau.
Plateaus are normal and easy to overcome, but also where many newbies throw in the towel.
Four Percent of People Leave Their Resolutions Behind While It’s Still January
Only 20% of New Year’s resolutions survive past February. But a shocking 4% of people will burn out before January even ends — something very few regulars complain about.
So, why do people abandon these resolutions before giving them a chance? Here are the most likely explanations that few care to admit:
- Rookies expect quick or even immediate results, becoming discouraged when the number on the scale doesn’t change after a treadmill session
- The January rush can be anxiety-inducing, leaving those who are already insecure feeling like all eyes are on them
- Exercise takes a toll on the body, and the post-workout soreness and fatigue isn’t always a welcoming feeling
- Even the very presence of serious lifters makes many feel as if they don’t belong (Planet Fitness does get one thing right)
If gym workouts are more mentally than physically-draining, an at-home dumbbell or resistance band set can get you active — without the anxiety and monthly fees!
Most Gym-Goers Dislike New Year’s Resolutions
Although exercise and weight loss top the New Year’s resolutions charts, 56% of gym visitors dislike the concept altogether. And if you befriend your fellow deadlifters, you’d understand why.
New Year’s resolutions are little more than well-intentioned traditions.
When the clock strikes midnight on January 1, your mindset and attitude don’t miraculously change — just like each birthday doesn’t automatically make you more mature.
A long-lasting commitment to fitness takes time to build and requires unwavering motivation.
Sometimes, it’s a high blood pressure diagnosis that triggers that internal dialogue. And other times, it’s hitting rock bottom (i.e., Daily McDonald’s visits, a disappointing mirror reflection).
If you really wanted to uncover your fitness potential, it wouldn’t take a fad like a New Year’s resolution or a “30 days of fitness” program to get your ass in gear. Why wait?
After January 1, Fast Food Joints Dwindle and Gym Attendance Skyrocket
With a complete lifestyle overhaul on the horizon, it’s not unusual for New Year’s resolutions to take on a more overzealous tone. So much so that researchers found that post-January 1:
- Fast food joints see a 4.6% decline in visitors
- Gyms welcome 6% more attendees than usual
The “why?” here is obvious. Cut out refined sugars, excess carbs, sodium, and calories, and shred fat with a twice-weekly cardio routine, and a more admirable physique will follow.
But as it turns out, this surge in willpower only lasts for so long.
The gradual gym attendance drop-off and irresistible Baconator cravings go hand-in-hand. And by the time February 9 rolls around, gym and fast food joint visits return to their normal levels.
Within the First Week of the New Year, Gym Attendance Peaks
Americans notoriously jilt New Year’s resolutions early in the year. But if there’s one remotely positive aspect of this cultural failure, it’s that Americans slam down on the gas immediately.
In that first full week of January, gym attendance increases by about 4%. However, the excitement quickly dwindles, and visitorship hits “average” levels just two weeks into the year.
The crowd that survives mid-January holds the greatest potential, at least until mid-March.
By then, attendance takes another nosedive, probably due to:
- Easter & other upcoming holidays
- The looming tax season
- More outdoor events (sporting, kids, gatherings, etc.)
- Fatigue, burnout, or becoming tired of the grind
Those who last past mid-March wind up being the regulars who overcome excuses. No amount of exhaustion, boredom, or consistency can hamstring their unbreakable willpower.
The Older Crowd Takes Advantage of January 1 Gym Visits Most
If you’re among the January 2 gym crusade, the last thing on your mind is sitting around and observing your fellow gym-goers. Get in, get out, and hope the crowd dies down tomorrow.
But when attention to detail prevails, you’ll notice a trend: Most of the new crowd is older. More specifically, the 40-49 (+55%) and 50-59 (+65%) crews see an unimaginable spike.
And yet, this doesn’t signal that the older generations are any more inspired than you.
The growing risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and a tanking metabolism — both of which take hold in the early 40s — delivers that final “kick” to get healthy … or else.
Yet, this is January 1 we’re talking about. Just how many 20-somethings are fully-recovered from the night before and ready for the blaring music and slamming weights at the gym?
Many Will Attempt a Fitness Resolution at Least 4 Times
As a nation, we might not stick to our fitness resolutions for all that long or make a gym appearance in February. But we sure as hell will try the same thing again next year!
Most Americans have at least four failed fitness resolutions in their rearview mirrors. However, that doesn’t mean you’re destined to fail or that you should opt for an easier resolution this year.
The biggest roadblock is … you.
If a five-day split doesn’t fit into your hectic schedule, choose a less rigorous routine at first. If the treadmill is the bane of your existence, learn to love the recumbent bike or elliptical.
Not every routine will work for you, and adapting routines to better fit your time constraints, muscle fiber types, and commitment level can ensure success well-after January ends.
“Difficulty” is Reportedly the Most Common Roadblock For Health & Fitness Resolutions
Newsflash: Committing to a major lifestyle change without previous experience is challenging.
Many Americans admit that “difficulty” stands in their way of success. These perceived difficulties range from sticking to a regimen and staying motivated to making time to exercise.
The true roadblock is rigidity.
Does an all-vegetarian diet seem too expensive or require too much time in the kitchen? Then only eat meat-free dishes for dinner, and ease into the full diet as the months pass.
Is a monthly gym membership too costly to be “worth it?” Then perform bodyweight workouts at home, create a savings account, and work your way toward a full gym membership.
Just because a routine follows a certain pattern, that doesn’t mean you’re required to follow it. Make the routine work for you, even if it means sacrificing results ever-so-slightly.
Nearly 40% of New Year’s resolutions take on a health or fitness angle. Of the most common goals, exercising more (13%), losing weight, getting “in shape,” and eating healthier appear to gain the most traction.
The top 5 New Year’s resolutions are eating healthier (the #1 contender year after year), exercising more, saving money & spending less (33%), learning new things (25%), and quitting smoking.
The excitement of setting — and sticking to — a resolution leads some to set more generic goals (“Be healthier) with many moving parts (i.e., Healthy eating, more exercise, less drinking).
The drive to visit the gym takes a nosedive with each passing week of the new year. By early February, about 80% of people lose motivation and either exercise sporadically or let their gym memberships go to waste. Around 63% will never return to the gym again.
New Year’s Resolution Gym Facts & Statistics Summary
These New Year’s resolution statistics can feel both defeating and discouraging. However, you don’t have to fall into the tracks of those who traveled this path before you. To beat the odds:
- Set a reasonable resolution: If the gym is your mortal enemy, eyeing five workouts a week will leave you destined to fail. Start with twice a week, build some confidence, and allow yourself 66+ days to build the habit.
- Look at who you are now: Lofty goals deliver motivation, yet every failure will be a setback. Don’t select a routine around what you want to do, but rather what you can do. Feel free to add a few bells and whistles as you make progress.
- Avoid the “all or nothing” attitude: Nothing determines your fitness success quite as much as your mindset. Fatigue, DOMS, gym closures, and inclement weather are all factors “out of your control.” Understand that missing or delaying a workout isn’t a failure.
While New Year’s resolutions are a Western tradition, January 1 isn’t some magical force field. It’s never too late to begin your journey, whether it’s March 14, August 6, or December 26th.
Stop waiting for your life to change, and make an effort to take control.
Want more interesting fitness facts? Check out our massive list of 41 Surprising Fitness & Gym Membership Statistics including an original infographic!