Mar 4, 2023 - Things to Do

Working out is the new group hang

eauden Barrett, Aaron Smith and Tawerau Kerr-Barlow of the New Zealand All Blacks train during a gym session

Nowadays, going to the gym is as much about hanging out as working out. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

Three years since the pandemic started upending our daily routines, Chicagoans are turning gyms into the new watercoolers.

Why it matters: As working from home has become the new normal, gyms have morphed into places not just for exercise, but also for screen-free socializing.

Driving the news: The annual Mindbody and ClassPass Wellness Index ranked the Windy City fifth-highest in terms of health and wellness nationwide.

  • Mindbody, a popular fitness booking platform and ClassPass' parent company, surveyed more than 17,000 adults in the 50 most-populous U.S. cities to determine the rankings.

Zoom in: The survey found Chicago residents are focusing on mental health and wellness — not just physical health — and improving their relationships.

  • Three-quarters (76%) of Chicago residents prioritize exercising at least once a week, according to the MindBody survey.
  • Building strong relationships matters a lot to Chicagoans, who ranked third in the country for having close relationships with their loved ones, according to the survey. And they're bringing that mentality to the gym.

What they're seeing: Erik Marthaler, owner of Lateral Fitness, told Axios he has seen people at his gym spend time with their friends, partners and spouses, especially as more people have been working from home.

  • "I don't think people really realized — especially the ones that haven't gone back to the office — how much the social aspect plays a part in mental health and wellness and the happiness in their lives," he said.
  • He added that people increasingly are signing up to work with personal trainers, giving them an opportunity for more one-on-one conversations.

Zoom out: The Chicago findings speak to a trend nationwide, where there's been a shift in how people view working out, according to Mindbody's survey.

  • Nearly 25% of people nationwide said they focus on their wellness to stay connected with others.
  • More than one-third of survey respondents said they were more likely to pick a spa or fitness studio if it's known for creating social connections.
  • For example, Chicago's Strong Hands Gym bills itself as the city's first LGBTQ-friendly training facility.
  • Studio Three — which has multiple Chicago locations — offers group exercise classes and encourages newcomers to meet people and build a community.

The bottom line: Every Michael Jordan needs a Scottie Pippen.


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