The gym has become the new ‘hang out’ spot for the youth generation, with teenagers spending their pocket money on protein supplements and asking for gym memberships for their birthdays. Does the shift in modern trends have anything to do with the dominance of social media?
There is no question that the rise of social influencers, and the prevalence of so-called ‘fitness influencers’ on Instagram and YouTube in particular has had a significant influence on modern teenage fitness trends. We are in the middle of a fitness revolution in which social media feeds are showered with images of the perfect body, workout routines and diet plans. Given that teenagers are the most avid users of social media there is no doubt that this has changed how they take care of their bodies.
Take @gracefituk , an Oxford University student with a following of nearly 840,000 on Instagram and over 360,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel. Grace updates her social media daily with content such as workout ideas and fitness Q&As. Off the back of this fanbase, she has recently developed her own merchandise, along with publishing a home workout plan – the ‘GraceFitHomeGuide’.
When scrolling through Instagram it doesn’t take long to notice the thousands of similar accounts. It seems that teenagers are relating themselves to these influencers, perhaps more than celebrities; whose lifestyles are simply out of reach and are using them as role models within their own lives.
THE BODY AND CULTURE
The gym has become the new ‘social hub’ for teenagers, where they spend hours socialising with like-minded friends whilst sculpting the desirable body. The sought-after look has also seen a transformation, most noticeably for females, from ‘the waif’ image of Kate Moss in the 1990s, to an increasingly muscular and toned physique, with boys and girls alike ditching cardio for weights. For young girls, the call for bigger bums and thicker thighs is having something of a moment, most noticeably influenced by the cartoonish figure of Kim Kardashian West. This trend is reflected by social media feeds dominated by ‘bubble butt’ workouts, the sell of ‘bum sculpting leggings’ at high street brands such Sweaty Betty, and the internet sensation of ‘Thicc Thursday’.
The aspiration amongst teenagers for muscles has had positive knock-on effects for the sports nutrition and supplement industry. Supplements such as protein powders and BCAAS, previously associated solely with Olympic athletes and bodybuilders, are being incorporated into the younger generation’s everyday lifestyles, with research by Mintel revealing over 2 in 5 (42%) of 16-24-year olds having consumed sports nutrition products in the past three months.
It would seem that the prevailing force of social media is the central motivation behind the GenZ demographic’s obsession with fitness, and when health and lifestyle influencers are the new celebs, it’s no wonder that today’s teenagers are hanging out at the gym and rejecting a life of hedonism and excess.
This post was written by Millie Watkin, age 17, who joined us on work experience this summer.