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Pandemic fuels fitness (and blister) boom in UK

New research and insights from eBay Ads UK has revealed that interest in fitness surged during the last English lockdown. In November 2020, searches for ‘exercise’ on shot up 27% compared to the previous month.

In a survey of 2,000 UK consumers, eBay Ads UK also found – that despite gyms and sports facilities being closed for much of the year – 27% of UK adults did more sport in 2020 compared to the previous year, while 31% adults took up a new sport or form of exercise.

From 25-30 December 2020, searches for ‘protein’ and ‘creatine’ surged 118% and 83% respectively, while interest in smart watches also rose, with searches for ‘Fitbit’ and ‘Garmin’ seeing a 32% and 40% boost.

The research also revealed a rise in those willing to embrace the elements within their training schedule. With swimming pools closed in many parts of the country, open water swimmers geared up for some icy dips in 2021: searches for ‘swim gloves’ on skyrocketed 348% between 25 and 30 December 2020, while those for ‘swim socks’ and ‘wetsuit’ rose 111% and 90% respectively.

Running fans also prepared for winter weather workouts, with searches for ‘reflective jacket’ rising 164% and those for ‘waterproof running jacket’ soaring 101% over the same time period.

Harmony Murphy, Head of UK Advertising at eBay, said: “From taking fitness goals to the next level, to taking them into open water, these insights show that fitness fans may well be looking to push their limits during this national lockdown. So, while we’re likely to see consumer interests fluctuate throughout the coming months as restrictions change, it’s clear brands will continue to have a unique opportunity to engage people who are passionate about exercise. But, to keep up with these shifting preferences, brands will need to keep their ears to the ground and harness the freshest data and smartest targeting solutions to ensure they’re making meaningful connections with sports lovers — whatever the weather or restrictions.”

However, amateur athletics is not without its perils. As searches for outdoor sports equipment and performance enhancing products surged, searches for ‘blister plaster’ rose 133% and searches for ‘ankle support’ swelled 107% – suggesting that some exercise efforts could be resulting in injuries.

Looking to the year ahead, one in five (20%) UK adults say they plan on working out outdoors and a third (33%) say they plan on working out at home in 2021. And, in the hope that some normality will eventually return in 2021, 18% plan on working out at the gym and 13% plan on returning to sports they couldn’t practice in 2020.

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