While today’s so-called “Millennial” generation – defined as young people born between approximately 1982 and 2000 – have been called a number of things, the newest label they’re attracting is “unhealthy.” This is the digital generation, raised on the Internet, smart phones and video games, and there is evidence that they spend more time watching their social media pages than their fitness routines or eating habits. All of which, combined with work or school, makes them in their own words, too busy to exercise.
A recent study conducted by Technogym entitled, “Wellness Deficit: Millennials and Health in America,” examined the health and fitness habits and attitudes of 5,000 Millennials aged 14 to 34. Despite having unprecedented access to information regarding health, fitness and nutrition (and apps to help with it!), only 52 percent of Millennials responding to the study rated their overall level of wellness as “good” or “excellent.” While the generation is reasonably well educated on the benefits of good diets and fitness regimens, they reported that a lack of time and stress is interfering with their ability to pursue these goals.
Millennials today would like to exercise more frequently, but state they are often too busy and unable to properly devote the time needed,” wrote the report’s authors. “As a result of this, there is a growing Wellness Deficit emerging among Millennials, primarily driven by financial insecurity, poor health and concerns over their appearance. Struggling to devote time to exercise, Millennials are generally looking to adopt short and sharp exercise formats that fit into their everyday busy schedules.”
The report recommends that technology, which Millennials are already highly attuned to and comfortable with, could help overcome the deficit, particularly in regards to mobile apps. Millennials report they value these apps to track their fitness progress in one place and with accurate data. Nearly 30 percent of Millennials said it’s important for them to be able to share their fitness data with friends and family (via social media, for example).
Increasingly, companies are engaging in research to determine what it is Millennials want. Today, this generation makes up 25 percent of the population and represent $200 billion in annual buying power, and health and fitness companies are rushing to provide them with what they want. What they don’t seem to want is steady-state gym workouts (treadmills, etc.), despite these being more effective at losing weight and maintaining higher levels of fitness. They prefer workouts that are fun, brief and communal, such as Zumba or group cycling. The recent annual report of the Sports and Fitness Industry Association stated that Millennials are more likely to partake in physical activity that is more focused on togetherness instead of competition. (In this case, the stereotype that Millennials are “stimulation junkies” may be quite true.)
Athletic technology brands such as FitBit and Nike have done a good job in adapting Millennial’s fitness mindset – communal, non-competitive, fun and shared via social media -- to their product lineups. The Technogym study has predicted that the use of mobile app technology for fitness is set to rise from 56 percent to 74 percent by 2016, with 40 percent of study respondents planning to use wearable technology for fitness purposes in the near future. Wearable technology that is networked may be the magic solution that helps fill in the Millennial wellness deficit.