The popularity of fitness trends around the world

Eliza Buglar

Jan 19, 2021

When you think of fitness trends, what comes to mind? Perhaps the aerobics craze of the 1980s, or the reign of Zumba throughout the 2010s?

It seems we’re always hearing about the latest fitness trends to take Instagram by storm, or the workouts to watch out for in the new year. But do people actually participate in these trends as they come and go, or are they simply buzzwords?

To find out, we thought we’d take a look through the online search volumes and trends data for fitness classes to see how the popularity of 15 fitness ‘movements’ have changed throughout the years around the world.

How the popularity of fitness trends has changed over the years

 

Using the search volume and Google Trends data we gathered, we can see how the popularity of the various fitness trends has changed over the years from 2005 to 2020. Some trends are, of course, more popular than others (particularly barre, Zumba, spinning and pole dancing) and some have enjoyed large spikes of search volume at times.

The largest spike in search volume of any fitness trend belongs to barre, which achieved an astronomical 263,723 searches per month in January 2019.

Incidentally, the five highest spikes in search volume over our 15-year time frame belong to barre. Furthermore, these five prominent search volume peaks occurred in January 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020.

We found that this pattern of search volume peaking in January (or sometimes February) of each year was often repeated in the data. We could probably put this pattern down to people looking to kickstart their New Year’s resolution, or maybe just wanting to get rid of that little extra poundage we all pick up around Christmas!

Outside of ‘barre class’, the second-highest peak in average monthly search volume goes to Zumba, which in January 2011 got to 235,714 searches per month. Zumba also overtook pole dancing as the dominating fitness trend (by search volume) at the beginning of 2010.

+ Methodology
  • We Googled ‘list of fitness classes’ and took note of every class in the first two results pages.
  • The countries we included were chosen by the top 15 with the highest GDP
  • Each class was searched in Google using Keywords Everywhere and SEM Rush, setting the region to ‘Global’ and then to each of the 15 countries. A variation of search terms (‘__ class’, ‘__classes’, ‘__ fitness class’ and ‘__fitness classes’) was used to determine which the top 15 most-searched fitness classes were.
  • We then entered each of the top 15 most-searched fitness classes in Google Trends, setting the period to 1 June 2005-2020, the region to first ‘Worldwide’ and then each of the 15 countries and imported the data.
  • We built a spreadsheet calculator to combine the Google Trends and search volume data to determine the approximate search volume for each Google Trends interest point for each month between June 2005 and 2020.
  • We entered the Google Trends and search volumes for each country and fitness class into the calculator and used the search volume per month generated by the calculator to build the racing bar charts.
+ Notes
  • China was excluded from the top 15 countries by GDP because no Google Trends or search volume data was available. South Korea was also removed due to only returning results for one single fitness trend.
  • Search terms used the word (and variations of) ‘class’ to ensure results were related to the fitness trend, not any alternative meanings. This reasoning was also used to eliminate the search term ‘boot camp’ from the top 15 fitness trends since there are alternative meanings to the term that would skew the results.
  • The search terms ‘boxing classes’ and ‘kickboxing classes’ were also removed from the top 15 after it was decided that these were sports, not fitness trends (although each sport has become somewhat of a trend)
  • The data returned for these search terms were based on Google searches in English.
    Search volumes of Keywords Everywhere and SEM Rush (online services used to measure how often specific search queries are entered into Google) are the averages of the previous 12 months for June 2020.
  • Keywords Everywhere was used to gather the global search volumes of the fitness trends, and SEM Rush used for the trends’ volumes for each country. This is because Keywords Everywhere offers an international setting, whereas SEM Rush offers individual countries.
  • France and Germany both returned Google Trends data for the search term ‘barre class’, but did not return search volume data in SEM Rush. Hence, the monthly search volumes for ‘barre class’ in France and Germany couldn’t be calculated, and this data isn’t included in the charts.
  • Likewise, many countries returned search volume data (albeit very low numbers) for most or all of the trends but did not return Google Trends data. Hence, these data sets could not be calculated, either.
  • Some countries’ charts begin from the first quarter of 2010, instead of 2005. This is because of anomalies in the monthly search volumes, which presented as massive peaks amongst flat lines and were usually seen around years 2005-2009. These anomalies were likely caused by Google Trends (started in 2004) not accurately recording search interest data in its first few years of existence.
+ Dates when data was gathered
  • Fitness trends search volumes (global) = 16 June 2020
  • Google Trends data (global and by country) = 8-9 July 2020
  • Fitness trends search volumes (Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Spain) = 13 July 2020
  • Google Trends and search volume data for fitness trends (Indonesia) = 21 July 2020
  • Fitness trends search volumes (Australia, Canada, India, UK, US) = 23 July 2020
  • Google Trends and search volume data for fitness trends (the Netherlands) = 11 August 2020
  • Google Trends and search volume for the terms ‘body combat class’ and ‘boxing fitness classes’ = 11 September 2020
N.B: All Google Trends data is for 1 June 2005 to 1 June 2020. All search volume data is for June 2020.

Top 15 fitness trends by search volume (searches per month [SPM]) in June 2020

Top 15 fitness trends by search volume (searches per month [SPM]) in June 2020

Australia

Australia returned search results for each of the 15 trends – so we can assume that Australians like getting on board the fitness bandwagon! Zumba scored the highest peak in search volumes in April 2010 with 20,662 searches per month. Before that, though, the peak search volume belonged to pole dancing classes, which obtained the title only two months before Zumba did with 8,813 monthly searches in February 2010.

Brazil

Of the 15 fitness trends, Brazil only returned search results for four classes: Pilates, spin, yoga and Zumba. Monthly search volumes for these fitness trends in Brazil reached their peak in November 2013, when searches for ‘spin class’ got to 1,170 per month.

 

Canada

Canada returned search results for every fitness trend except for BODYBALANCE™ and BODYCOMBAT classes. While pole dancing classes appear to be the most popular in terms of search results in the late 2000s, they were overtaken by Zumba classes in late 2010. By 2012, though, a new competitor emerged: spin classes, which then began to really soar in search interest from 2014.

Searches for ‘spin class’ reached their highest in January 2019 with 14,078 searches per month; it’s also the highest search volume any of the fitness classes received in Canada. However, search volumes for ‘spin class’ dove from 12,388 monthly searches in January 2020 to just 3,660 searches by June 2020 as stay-at-home restrictions (due to the COVID-19 pandemic) began to come into effect.16

France

Like Brazil before it, France only returned search results for Pilates, spin, yoga and Zumba classes. Only ‘spin class’ reached search volumes above 1,000 per month (peaking at 1,738 monthly searches in July 2017), and only spin and yoga even reached more than 500 monthly searches. It would appear that while the French seem mildly interested in spin classes, the overall popularity of fitness classes in France isn’t high.

Germany

Only spin, yoga and Zumba classes returned search results for Germany. Like in France, spin classes appear to be the most popular in terms of search volumes but have been overtaken every now and then by yoga and Zumba classes. Search volumes for ‘Zumba class’ peaked in October 2018 at 1,064 searches per month, while search interest in ‘spin class’ peaked in March 2012 at 1,504 per month. Again, like in France, the popularity of fitness classes doesn’t appear to have taken off in Germany.

 

India

HIIT, BODYCOMBAT and boxing fitness classes were the only fitness trends not to return search results in India, where interest in fitness classes appears to be comfortably high. Aerobics was the most popular fitness class in India until it was overtaken by yoga and Zumba in 2015. After that, Zumba was the dominating fitness class (despite a dip in search volume in late 2019).

Interestingly, search volume for ‘yoga class’ has slightly increased during the first six months of 2020, when the trends in other countries have typically seen a decrease in that same period.

Indonesia

Indonesia returned search results for what would now appear to be the four main fitness trends: Pilates, spin, yoga and Zumba. Of those, yoga classes would seem to be the most popular, but none of the fitness classes appear to have soared to great heights of search volume over the years.

Italy

Italy returned search results for spin, yoga, Zumba and pole dancing, though search volumes for the latter two classes are somewhat negligible. While search volumes for spin and yoga classes have careered up and down over the years, volumes for ‘yoga class’ curiously spiked again in April 2020, despite Italy being under strict stay-at-home orders during that month.16

Japan

Judging by search volumes, if fitness classes in countries like France and Germany were only mildly popular, they would seem to be downright unpopular in Japan by comparison: the country only returned search results for spin and yoga classes.

Mexico

Search volumes for the various fitness classes in Mexico never reached the same astronomical heights seen in other countries. In fact, volumes rarely reached over 1,000 per month for any of the four trends that returned results in Mexico (barre, spin, yoga and Zumba).

However, search interest in Zumba classes jumped from 238 searches per month in April 2020 to 646 in May. Mexico has been under stay-at-home restrictions (with essential exceptions) since 30 March 2020,16 so perhaps people were looking into ways to keep fit at home.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands returned search results for spin, yoga and Zumba classes. However, Google searches for these classes have very rarely reached more than 1,000 per month over the years. Of the classes that did return search results in the Netherlands, spin and yoga appear to have enjoyed the most popularity.

Russia

Yoga classes seem to be the most popular in Russia, often returning higher search volumes than spin and Zumba classes. While search volumes for Zumba classes are minute, yoga and spinning have enjoyed slightly higher popularity.

Spain

Although Spain returned search results for eight fitness trends, none of those trends reached search volumes of more than 1,000 per month. Yoga and Zumba have jostled around as the most popular fitness classes, with spinning not far behind and Pilates making an appearance every now and then.

United Kingdom

Like Australia, every fitness trend returned search volumes in the UK, with some exciting results. Pole dancing was the most popular fitness class in terms of search volume for quite some time, overtaken briefly between 2010 and 2012 by Zumba classes before coming back to claim the top spot. During Zumba’s reigning period, search volumes for ‘Zumba class’ peaked at 32,135 per month in January 2011, the same month that global search volumes peaked for this trend.

By 2016, however, pole dancing classes had again been knocked out of the top spot by spin classes, which has since continued to be the most popular fitness class by search volume in the UK.

United States

As well as Australia and the UK, the US also returned search results for every single fitness trend and rather impressive results at that. Quite a few trends saw search volumes reaching into the tens of thousands, and Zumba and pole dancing classes saw volume peaks into the hundreds of thousands!

The highest peak that any of the fitness trends reached in the US belongs to Zumba classes, which got to an enormous 168,771 searches per month in January 2011 (again, the same month that the international results peaked). Pole dancing classes reached peak search volume in January 2013 with a highly respectable 145,648 searches per month.

We also thought we’d investigate why search volumes for the 15 fitness trends were usually higher in the US than in other countries; was it a population factor, or perhaps the level of internet access? To find out, we checked the percentage of internet access in the US and India (the countries with the highest populations in our top 15) against the populations of both countries.

While we found that the percentage of the US population with internet access was higher than that in India, the number of people that the percentage with internet access in India amounted to was higher than the whole US population. So, we can’t really be sure why search volumes for fitness trend classes were nearly always higher in the US than in other countries. Perhaps the fitness industry is simply more popular in the US!

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Sources

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