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Where Millennials and Gen Z Follow Exercise Trends

Fitness has come a long way from Jane Fonda videos and jazzercise classes. It’s typical for younger generations to spearhead a changing of the guard when it comes to trends. And when it comes to exercise, millennials and Gen Z are leading the cause.

An obvious change in recent years comes in the form of wearable techs like Apple Watches, Garmins, Fitbits, and apps like Strava and Advanta. Wearable technology is so popular that it makes the top three of the American College of Sports Medicine’s list of popular fitness trends of 2021.

No surprise, millennials grew up as technology did and Gen Z grew up knowing nothing else. Couple that with gym closures during the pandemic and of course the way we exercise will have changed. Now, it might not be all about who you know at the gym and regularly getting the same treadmill but more about signing up for a live cycling class on Peloton, practicing a TikTok dance so many times you’ve earned your exercise rings for the day and watching an Instagram Live boxing workout with Rumble.

In the mid-2000s, boutique fitness studios popped up almost faster than Starbucks. Small but specialized classes like boot camps, barre studios, SoulCycle, and CrossFit landed on what felt like every corner of every city. Younger generations were no longer looking for run-of-the-mill workouts at the gym but unique classes. According to the International Health Racquet and SportsClub Association's consumer report, this trend continued with the membership of boutique fitness growing by 121% in 2018.

These studios fostered a sense of community. In fact, “How We Gather,” research from the Sacred Design Lab highlights SoulCycle and CrossFit as almost evangelical. “Strikingly, spaces traditionally meant for exercise have become the locations of shared, transformative experience,” the research reads.

Social media’s interconnectivity has only furthered that idea, taking advantage of furthering it as much as possible throughout the pandemic when boutique gyms closed, too.

Some fitness companies actually saw an increased profit during quarantine. As more people worked from home, they also worked out from home. Advanta even changed its gym check-in to an at-home workout check-in. Perhaps the best-known successor of the pandemic’s fitness boom has been Peloton, which uses technology and community to reach members who can join the fitness app through their phones, computers, or screens attached to Peloton’s specialized at-home stationary bikes or treadmills. Classes include cycling, running, walking, yoga, strength, cardio, dance cardio, barre, and even guided meditation. Peloton’s platform is inherently social, reaching millennials and Gen Z but also Gen Y and boomers.

Peloton’s instructors also use social media to amass millions of followers, something other fitness experts and brands do to reach younger users. Their charming yet relatable personalities make them extremely attractive for both Millennials and Gen-Z.

On YouTube, there is Adrienne Mishler of Yoga with Adrienne, who has more than 9 million YouTube subscribers and an app that offers online training, helpful advice, and an active community. The New York Times called her “the reigning queen of pandemic yoga.” While her YouTube platform draws in a younger crowd, her classes target other generations and archetypes. “Yoga for Seniors,” “Yoga for Nurses,” and “Hands Free Yoga” reach various audiences.

Instagram is loaded with fitness influencers whose workouts have translated to app format. There’s Kayla Itsines, whose 12.9 million followers also download her High Intensity with Kayla program. Kirsty Godso, a Nike Master Trainer, boasts a quarter-million followers and regularly posts videos to her own Instagram in addition to her workouts featured on the Nike Training Club app and partnership workouts with New York City’s SkyTing Yoga, which has SkyTing TV, a video-based yoga platform that substitutes for in-person yoga classes.

TikTok, while newer, is no different and is more popular among the Gen Z set. Demi Bagby, a 20-year-old fitness influencer and CrossFitter posts acrobatic stunts that have garnered her 13 million followers and an app.

As gyms begin to reopen with vaccines and lifted mask mandates in place, all signs point to a hybrid world, where in-person classes will also be live-streamed. Or, at the very least, recorded. Only time will tell what the next trend is.

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