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Fitness and the changing demographic of a gym-goer

25 Mar 2024

As we get older many of us become more aware of the importance of maintaining good health.

For some, this attitude change could be due to declining health or an acute health scare that prompts one to bump health and wellness up the list of priorities.

At the same time, older age groups tend to have more time on their hands. Retirement gives us a chance to take up new hobbies such as cycling, swimming or dancing (cited as popular activities for the over 65’s) or indulge in self-care rather than doing the school run. In fact, according to a recent survey, people over the age of 50 now spend more time each week exercising than their younger counterparts.

Loneliness is also a factor. Retirement may be the catalyst for relocating from urban city centres to rural and coastal areas and this can mean fewer opportunities for social interaction. Joining community groups and local gyms presents an opportunity to rebuild those connections.

Whatever the reason, the older generation is an increasingly prosperous market for the health and fitness industry.

In this article, I will take you through the changing demographics of fitness fans, gym bunnies and health nuts nationwide and deep dive into why this age group is suddenly more inclined to hit the treadmill than their younger counterparts.

Changing face of gym users

When you think of gym goers you may be inclined to envisage ripped muscle heads grunting in the weights section. But the face of your typical gym member is changing or, should we say, ageing!

Although a report by IHRSA  shows that 18–34-year-olds continue to hold the majority of gym memberships (30.9%) memberships held by people aged 55+ are now the fastest-growing group.

Older members visit their clubs more often than younger age groups and a recent IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report found that it’s Baby Boomers who visit most frequently of all – approximately 11 times per month.

There are several reasons for this.

  • Social interaction – there can be fewer opportunities for social interaction and community engagement, which is important for mental well-being, as people age. Joining a gym with fitness groups and a physical hub provides people with an alternative community to be part of.
  • Health concerns – awareness of the importance of regular exercise to help prevent or manage myriad health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis is growing. As the prevalence of chronic conditions increases with age (80% of over 65’s have one or more) so too does the importance of staying healthy.
  • Disposable income – the older population typically enjoys relatively high purchasing power because of lifelong accumulation of wealth (reports by Saga state over 50s hold 80% of all personal wealth and control 70% of all disposable income) which enables them to spend money on life’s luxuries.
  • Interest in mind/body wellness – older adults are increasingly recognising the importance of mind-body wellness practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques. Studies have shown that two in five older adults suffer from a mental health issue so classes and products that can help reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall well-being, are hugely appealing to those individuals seeking holistic fitness solutions.


Historically, the fitness industry has pursued younger clients and paid less attention to the ‘silver’ or ‘grey’ market, but that is changing as this age group becomes more tech-savvy and engaged with improving their health through fitness.

"The older generation is much more engaged in their health due to general focus around chronic diseases, and they're in that risk group. Secondly, we know that older demographics have adopted mobile technology at a rate which we had not expected, and most of these activity trackers use the smartphone or tablet as a hub device."

Is the industry ageist?

Right now there is a growing problem with ageism in agencies. In a survey conducted by Campaign, it was found that 42% of advertising, marketing, media, and PR employees had witnessed ageism towards a colleague, and 32% had experienced ageism themselves.

On top of that, the advertising industry lacks an older perspective. In the UK alone, only 6.2% of advertisers are 50 or older.

Without the voices of the older generations in our agencies, we are losing an authentic look at this audience and a true understanding of how best to target this demographic.

An exemplar of the changing face of the fitness industry is Edwina ‘Eddie’ Brocklesby, who was recently awarded a British Empire Medal (B.E.M) for Services to the Health and Wellbeing of Older People.

Eddie, also known as Irongran, is famous for taking on an Ironman at the age of 75. She’s the face of a recent Nike advert and founder of Silverfit, a charitable fitness network that hosts different activities for older adults every week, from cheerleading to Nordic walking. This is what fitness over 50 looks like now.

Harness the power of contextual OOH advertising

Whilst billboards and transport promise great reach, sometimes it might be wise to place your advert in an environment that’s more commonly associated with the message. If we consider health and fitness, contextually relevant adverts might be your local GP surgery, hospital, pharmacy or even gym.

This relevance increases the likelihood of users engaging with the ads since they are more likely to be interested in products or services related to the content they are consuming and since the ads are relevant to the content being viewed, they are less intrusive and enhance the overall user experience. Users are more likely to perceive these ads as helpful rather than interruptive.

Contextual advertising can be more cost-effective for advertisers because they’re targeting users more likely to be interested in their offerings. This can lead to less ad wastage and therefore a higher ROI compared to other forms of advertising that target broader audiences.

If you’d like to find out more about the kind of health and wellness environments we can help you appear in, then please get in touch.

Dean Gahagan Dean has specialised in healthcare advertising for almost a decade, becoming Managing Director of IDS in 2023. Our cricket loving, South African Badger is a strong believer in the power of sports to help with mental health and addiction. Dean is also particularly interested in pharma and the growth of personalised, curative therapies for patients.