Which city in the UK is most keen to return to the gym

20 April 2021

From April 12, all non-essential shops opened, as well as beauty salons, hairdressers and fitness centres. With gyms opening in England from the Monday, fitness studios and clubs across the country are getting ready to welcome members back with social distancing zones in place.

Throughout the pandemic, gyms have worked to introduce various measures to support their members including fitness challenges, online classes and outdoor PT sessions. As facilities reopen, gyms are putting measures in place to ensure they are Covid-secure with PureGym announcing contactless entry, as well as hand sanitiser and face coverings for those not using equipment.

Gyms have been closed since the third national lockdown in England on January 5th, meaning many members across the country are eager to get back to their local centre. However, the pandemic has changed the way others train, with online fitness apps and home-workouts becoming increasingly popular. It is likely that, once restrictions ease, not all members will feel comfortable returning to their gym or leisure centre, with some finding that their new methods of exercise are more convenient. 

To find out which cities across the country were most eager to return to their fitness and leisure centre, we wanted to find out where in the UK were members most likely to be flocking to their gym once lockdown lifts.

What did the research show?

The research shows members in the North were the most keen to get back to the gym once restrictions end, with Manchester and Leeds at the top of the ranking. The data shows gym goers in the Midlands were also searching for their gym reopening, with Birmingham and Coventry ranking in the top five.

At the other end of the spectrum, the research shows that members in both Wales and Scotland are less eager to return to their gyms. The restrictions for both Scotland and Wales differ from those in England, with gyms opening on 26th of April in Scotland and on the 10th of May for those in Wales. 

The comms challenge for the gyms and leisure providers

While the next few weeks will provide some relief for health and fitness clubs and facilities, it’s crucial that this return to action is managed carefully – and not just in regard to social distancing and wider health and safety.

Businesses need to tread a fine line between pressuring members to unfreeze their membership policies when they might want to wait a little longer, as well as showcasing what facilities are available from both the first stage of unlocking on the 12th April and when indoor classes return on the 17th of May. 

It’s encouraging to note that 87% of members said they would be resuming their gym membership post lockdown. However retaining these people over the coming months as society continues to open up, will be critical – particularly as many will likely have recognised the training options available, away from the gym, that could be more cost-effective. 

Successful clubs will need to be able to adapt to the change in market conditions and member demands and be able to showcase these changes to current and prospective members through communications channels. 

Surveys are a really effective way to understand how your members are feeling right now and what your club can do to accommodate their needs, both now and in the months to come. 


To gather the data, we used Google’s Keyword Planner tool to break down the search volume for the five largest cities in each region of the UK from March 2021. We gathered data on search terms related to gyms and leisure centres reopening including ‘when do gyms open’, ‘when do gyms reopen’ and ‘when do leisure centres reopen’ and compared this against population data to work out the searches per capita for each city and region.

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