Lockdown's biggest surprise fitness trend revealed

... and it has nothing to do with Joe Wicks

Man sitting on a ledge drying himself with a towel
(Image credit: Mary Taylor from Pexels)

With gyms closing their doors, we have had to get creative with our fitness regimes over the past year. While Joe Wicks' daily workouts have drawn lots of positive press, and anyone who tried to find in-stock weights or dumbells at any point in 2020 will be under no illusions as to the popularity of home workouts, there's one major fitness hit that might come as more of a surprise.

We're talking about wild swimming. It makes sense really – the closure of indoor pools for most of the year put an abrupt stop to regular swimmers' usual routines, and for the rest of us, any kind of activity that enabled us to leave the house (and didn't come with a high risk of ending up ultra-contagious and bed-bound for two weeks) quickly shot up in appeal.  

The stats comes from MoneySupermarket, as part of a study into the fitness trends that shaped 2020. Wild swimming saw the biggest rise in Google search, with a whopping increase of over 240% compared to the same period in 2019. The town that embraced the trend most whole-heartedly was Southport. (If you fancy giving it a go, head to our wild swimming guide, pick up a dry bag for your valuables, and perhaps invest in one of the best wetsuits if you're worried about the cold.)

Other notable trends include hiking, yoga, kettlebells and HIIT. Here's the full list of activities with biggest percentage increase in search over 2020 compared to 2019: 

  • Wild Swimming - 243.8%
  • Home Workout - 234.6%
  • Spin - 230.3%
  • Hiking - 207.7%
  • Yoga - 176.7%
  • Kettlebells - 140.9%
  • HIIT - 95.5%
  • Running - 87.8%
  • Virtual Classes - 70.6%
  • Cycling - 59.8%

Which UK cities embraced lockdown fitness most?

The study also looked at the UK towns and cities getting their sweat on with the most fitness searches per capita. Bristol came out on top as the UK’s workout capital (with an average monthly search volume of 339 fitness searches per 1,000 people). West Country neighbour Bath wasn't far behind at #3, and Liverpool took the #2 spot. Here's the full list of fittest areas, based on average monthly fitness searches per 1,000:

  • Bristol - 339.0
  • Liverpool - 278.5
  • Bath - 278.4
  • Birkenhead - 277.2
  • Cambridge - 269.3
  • Reading - 263.8
  • Watford - 247.9
  • Warrington - 246.1
  • Bournemouth - 242.9
  • Glasgow - 242.29
Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).