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The UK’s Most Popular Fitness Trends 2021

The UK’s Most Popular Fitness Trends 2021
Adele Halsall
Writer and expert2 years ago
View Adele Halsall's profile

When it comes to working out, boredom is one of the biggest barriers to progress. Because let’s face it, if you’re not enjoying your workout, you’re less likely to put in 110% and less likely to see results. Luckily, the world of fitness is constantly evolving and adapting, meaning if you’re looking for a change, there’s always a new workout trend you can try out.

But which fitness trends have swept the nation and which have we left behind? Using Google Trends, we analysed search data to see which workouts have seen the biggest increase or decrease in popularity over the last 12 months. We also teamed up with Myprotein PT Tom Hall to predict how we’ll be working out in 2022.

Hollywood, Olympics and TikTok inspired workouts

The most popular fitness trend of 2021 was battle ropes, which saw a whopping 177% increase in search interest over the last 12 months. If you’re looking for a dynamic, full-body workout, battle ropes are a great option, working your arms, back, chest, legs, core and more. And if you’re looking for a reason behind their popularity, Hollywood may have the answer, with everyone from Dwayne Johnson to Khloe Kardashian being seen using them to work out.

After the event was postponed last year, 2021 saw the Tokyo 2020 games finally take place, which led to a spike in searches for Olympics-inspired workouts. Athletics saw the biggest boost, with a 150% increase in searches over the last 12 months. But that wasn’t the only thing. Interest in swimming climbed 133%, while bouldering (+125%), gymnastics (+75%) and badminton (+74%) also saw big increases.

Perhaps more surprisingly, one of the biggest fitness trends of 2021 came from TikTok. Earlier this year, we saw a viral trend sweep the video-sharing app, with people using weighted hula hoops to work out. And rather than staying on social media, this trend hit the mainstream, with a 100% increase in Google searches over the last 12 months.

Saying goodbye to lockdown workouts

After a year spent at home, 2021 saw things slowly start to return to normal. And as we started to venture back outside, interest in home workouts and online workouts both declined, by 84% and 61% respectively.

Looking at more specific types of exercise, most of the trends which saw the biggest decrease in popularity were all things which can be done at home, with minimal equipment and limited space. Interest in burpees fell by 91%, while pull-ups (-54%), bodyweight exercises (-51%), planking (-35%) and press-ups (-34%) also fell out of favour.

However, it wasn’t just solo workouts decreasing in popularity. Some previously popular group workouts also saw dips, including tabata (-50%), circuit training (-46%), barre (-34%) and spinning (-31%).

How will we be working out in 2022?

So, now we know how the UK has been working out over the past 12 months, what does the future hold? We teamed up with Myprotein PT Tom Hall to make some predictions about some of the fitness trends we might see in 2022.

Social exercise

We’ve already seen a decrease in searches around online or at-home workouts over the 12 months, and this is something we expect to see continue into 2022, as people look to move back to more sociable forms of fitness.

Here’s what Tom had to say: “People like seeing people — the interaction is so valuable, even if we don't always think it is! While people may love being part of a gym thanks to having all the equipment they could ever need, they also love chatting and being sociable, as well as having other people around to provide motivation.”

“So, all things permitting, we’re expecting to see a return to doing things in person, as well as in groups, and maybe some dust settling on those home dumbbells!”

Cross training and functional fitness

As we mentioned earlier, boredom is one of the biggest barriers to achieving your fitness goals, and cross training can be a great way of keeping things interesting . Put simply, cross training just means doing a variety of different types of exercise, rather than focusing on just one form of fitness. While this may sound like something we all do, the key to proper cross training is to think about your fitness goals, look at your main forms of exercise and pick out other workouts which will complement them.

Meanwhile, functional fitness refers to workouts that mimic everyday actions, utilising multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Functional workouts all centre around seven key movements — push, pull, squat, lunge, hinge, twist and walk.

Tom says: “The world is becoming less and less oriented around the traditional bodybuilding workout and most trainers are now doing more functional based workout plans. Working on functional fitness can help with any number of different goals too, whether you’re looking to build muscle, lose weight or just maintain a good level of strength and fitness.”

Data-driven workout plans

While wearable technology has been around for a while, with an increasing number of people now using some form fitness tracker, this year we’re expecting to see data-driven workouts really take off.

Tom says: “Rather than just using technology to keep track of our steps or monitor our heart rate, we’re starting to see entire workout plans built around biometric data. And as technology continues to advance, we’ll be able to include more and more data in our plans — we may even start to get things like speed and power timings with our weightlifting.”

Even more vegan

While vegan athletes have been shouting about the benefits of plant power for what seems like forever, we’re now seeing more and more non-vegans start to explore alternative ways of fuelling their fitness.

Tom says: “Plant-based diets can still be powerful sources of nutrition and energy, and with enough planning and structure to your meals, can be high enough in protein for those looking to bulk up. You’ve got so much more variety now, with vegan protein bars and snacks, as well as loads of plant-based protein powders. The quality is getting better and better, so expect to see more of this over the coming year.”

Intuitive eating

As mental health and self-care continue to be prioritised, we’re expecting to see more people explore intuitive eating. Rather than being focused on weight loss, intuitive eating is all about actively listening to your body’s cues around hunger and getting rid of more restrictive practices.

Tom says: “People are taking a more holistic view to their physical and mental health, and intuitive eating can play an important part in this. With more thought about your eating, trying to enjoy food, rather than just thinking about numbers and macros, instead focusing on behaviours and building positive relationships with food and your overall diet.”

Take Home Message

Nobody wants to feel bored when they’re working out. Luckily, there have never been more options when it comes to keeping fit, so regardless of what your overall fitness aim is, there’s sure to be something to keep you feeling motivated.


We compiled a list of over 50 different workout trends, before using Google Trends to track their search interest over the last 12 months. We then looked at the increase or decrease in search interest over that period to uncover the most and least popular fitness trends.

Adele Halsall
Writer and expert
View Adele Halsall's profile
Adele is a keen blogger and yogi with a passion for the vegan lifestyle. She loves exploring new (sometimes weird) foods, cooking & testing new recipes, and always appreciates a good sourdough.