Insight Update

Grab the Fitionary: The most confusing fitness terms revealed by new study

In a bid to make fitness more accessible and less daunting to newcomers, PureGym has revealed the fitness lingo that confuses us the most, and what these terms actually mean.

The gym chain used Google Keyword Planner to analyse how often definitions are sought for more than 150 common fitness terms globally, looking at searches such as ‘define [term]’, ‘what does [term] mean’ and ‘[term] meaning’.

While advanced fitness terms such as hypertrophy and concentric contractions may require a more in-depth definition, there are also plenty of entry level phrases such as ‘reps’, ‘squat’ and ‘cardio’ that are being frequently searched for, highlighting the huge demand for beginner-friendly gym information.

It is, however, BMI (body mass index) that takes the top spot as the fitness term the world is searching to define most frequently, with 96,700 average monthly searches recorded over the past 12 months. With much debate around the use of BMI as a metric within the health and fitness industry, this is likely to contribute to the high ranking of the term. However, when compared to data from 2020, the term is actually one that has seen a significant decrease in searches, with searches down 7.41% on the previous year – perhaps a sign that we’re placing less importance on the metric.

Following in second place, with 78,900 average monthly searches, is the squat – a popular movement that is fundamental to the fitness routines of both first-time gym-goers and experts alike, and one that’s seeing a surge in searches with a 22% increase in interest in the last year. Commonly crowned as the king of all exercises, the squat works almost every one of our muscles and builds strength, size, and power in the lower body and core. It’s one of three key lifts in powerlifting and is accessible for both beginners and advanced lifters.

Although most of the terms that people want to understand are fitness related, there are also several nutrition related terms that people are confused by. With 44,800 searches, ‘macros’ (short for macronutrients) feature as the sixth most searched for definition, with probiotics close behind in seventh (43,300 searches).

In addition to the terms we’re searching to define the most, there are also a number of fitness phrases that have seen both significant increases and decreases in interest over the past year. Progressive overload has seen a huge boom in searches in 2021, with a 209% rise in searches for the term compared to 2020. 1RM, short for one rep max (176%), and RDL, or Romanian deadlift (119%), have also seen significant increases, perhaps as a result of the ongoing rise in interest in weightlifting amongst the worldwide gym community.

On the other hand, spinning has been the term that’s seen the largest decrease, with a 29% drop in searches. This could however change again through 2022, with classes such as spin once again running as normal after two years of uncertainty.

Stephen Rowe, Chief Marketing Officer at PureGym, said: “The fitness world is full of acronyms and terms specific to the gym community, and for beginners it can be overwhelming to navigate all of the terminology, adding to the gym anxiety that many people already feel when starting out.

“It’s been interesting to see what people are searching for, and how this has changed over the years. It’s clear from the searches which have increased the most that people are taking weightlifting more seriously and turning to Google to learn how to improve their strength and change their body composition. However, it’s also clear that there is a huge need for beginner friendly resources online so people can learn about squats, DOMS, reps and macros too.

“We’re always looking for ways to help our members feel as comfortable as possible, no matter what stage of their journey they’re at, so we hope our findings can help to clear up any confusion before hitting the gym!”

To see the top 25 most searched for terms, and the definitions of these, visit:

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