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According to a recent survey, a third of 18-35 year olds feel too self-conscious to join a gym.

Research from the UK’s largest, independent, not-for-profit health and well-being organisation, Nuffield Health, stated that 22% of participants surveyed said that seeing other people’s gym photos on social media made them feel under pressure to look a certain way.

Meanwhile, 32% of women admitted to wanting people to take more realistic, or less staged, photographs of themselves in the gym, compared to 22% of men.

As many resolve to get fit in the New Year, Nuffield Health conducted a survey amongst 2,000 18-35 year olds to explore what’s holding people back from joining a gym – known as ‘gymhibitions’. Aside from feeling intimidated, almost a quarter (23%) are “worried I’m notfit enough”, 24% are “worried everyone will look at me” and 11% “don’t like getting hot and sweaty.”

Stephen Macconville, Nuffield Health’s Fitness Lead, said: “We wanted to find out what’s holding Brits back from commencing their fitness journey. The findings reveal that many people are put off the gym because they feel pressure from social media. 43% of Brits surveyed have witnessed their fellow gym users taking selfies or photos in the gym and although gym selfies and work out videos from fitness models can be motivating, it can also hold people back from taking their first foray into a gym.”

When asked what would encourage people to join a gym or attend more often, over a quarter (26%) said a tailored exercise plan, with one in five (20%) citing a regular Health MOT to track progress.

Stephen continues: “Getting fit is a journey which is personal to everyone. A Health MOT and regular check-ins with a personal trainer will ensure you’re doing what’s best for you and your body, no matter what your starting level of fitness is. This will help deliver better results than looking to other people or social channels for inspiration.”

The survey also explored peoples’ pet peeves in the gym with the top five answers being:

1.      People staring

2.      People hogging equipment

3.      People taking selfies/photos

4.      People not wiping down equipment

5.      People flexing their muscles and staring at themselves in the mirror

To help encourage people to start on their fitness journey, Nuffield Health are offering a 1-day trial voucher valid at any of its consumer clubs across the UK.

To encourage more positive and realistic workout imagery on social media, Nuffield Health have created an inspirational workout top which reveals motivating slogans as wearers sweat it out in the gym. The first 100 people to redeem a 1-day trial voucher from will receive a free heat-activated workout top.

About the research

The survey was carried out on behalf of Nuffield Health by OnePoll.  2,000 Brits aged 18-35 who have a social media account were surveyed online between 6th December and 12th December 2018.

FitPro caught up with personal trainer, endurance athlete and digital marketing consultant, Fiona Bugler, to hear what she makes of these latest findings. She commented, “The Nuffield survey reported in The Independent last week is timely and reflects a subtle shift in what people want and need the fitness industry to deliver. Of the 2,000, 18-35 year olds surveyed, 22% said that other people’s gym images on social media made them feel intimidated. A few years ago, This Girl Can reported that women didn’t participate in sport or fitness for fear of being judged. This study backed this up, with 24% of those surveyed saying they were ‘worried that everyone will look at me’. So what can you, as a personal trainer, do to buck the trend?

“At Endurance Women (, we celebrate women who are active, fit and healthy because they have added something to their life, not cut back on calories or set off on an unrealistic training regime. We celebrate ordinary women being extraordinary. We don’t share images of how people look, but we do share what they’re doing. A challenge is the perfect antidote to negativity, and lack of confidence and feelings of not being good enough is often at the root of people not going to the gym. The survey also revealed that a third of those asked wanted to see more realistic images on social media. This is something big brands are already responding to, most notable examples being brands such as Dove using real women. As a personal trainer, you can be a trailblazer by using real people, sharing their stories on social media, and showing how training has changed their life, not just their body. The study also suggests the obvious motivators such as written plans, support from you, and giving them feedback on their health, not just inches lost.”

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