“Somebody call 911…Linda was killing it in the #gym today training for a #5K”
“It felt great to have a #swimming #workout today!! I was having chlorine withdrawals!!”
Which states’ residents work out the most? Which fitness activities are popular? What does athleticism look like for fitness buffs in urban centers such as Los Angeles and New York City? To get a better idea, we examined Twitter mentions of key fitness terms across the continental U.S. and found some interesting trends.
In order to discover indicators that people were heading to or from a workout, we flagged mentions (not just hashtags) of the keywords “gym,” “workout,” “fitness,” “cardio,” and “exercise” in 311,360 tweets. We avoided major sports (football, basketball, etc.), as fan mentions would have skewed the results. We also avoided some obvious activities (running, walking, spinning, etc.) because the words are too generic and often used in other contexts.
Workout Objectives: Tweets by State
On a per capita basis, the states with the highest mentions of these workout objectives were Nevada (163.7), New Jersey (159.2), and Texas (128.4). The strong numbers in Nevada may in part reflect on its status as a glitzy tourist destination, where hospitality employees and revelers alike care about image. Rhode Island, New York, Florida, Delaware, and California were close behind.
Interestingly, Washington, D.C., scored a sky-high 231. This could be based on population density, affluence, the focus on politics, or all three. After all, image matters in politics, and busy professionals may hit the gym frequently to stay in shape and destress from fast-paced careers. (The hard-and-fast reason is unclear, as we didn’t score other metros on this index.)
Montana, Wyoming, and South Dakota ranked low; however, two of the lowest-scoring states were in the South: Arkansas and Mississippi. One reason? Residents in states with nice weather and an abundance of outdoor activities may prefer to get fit by heading outside to hike, hunt, or fish rather than hitting the gym.
Not surprisingly, the states with the largest populations tweeted the most overall about their workout intentions. These include California, Texas, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.
Now that we know where U.S. fitness enthusiasts are tweeting from, let’s explore what kinds of workouts people are tweeting about.
Specific Fitness Activity Mentions in Tweets
Different states vary when it comes to top-mentioned fitness interests. We analyzed 239,350 tweets containing a wide range of terms that generally refer to athletic activities and found that seven dominated, with one to 18 states preferring a particular activity the most.
- Yoga was the top activity tweeted in 10 states – almost a perfect match with Democratic-leaning states. [Tweet This Fact]
- Swimming was the top activity mentioned in 18 states – even in landlocked states in the Midwest and South. Pools, rivers, and lakes are clearly popular destinations. [Tweet This Fact]
- Marathon-running was the top activity mentioned in 10 states; top mentions peaked from Minnesota to Virginia and around the Great Lakes area. [Tweet This Fact]
5Ks and CrossFit are two frequently mentioned activities; however, neither took top popularity honors. Skiing was only the 15th most popular activity overall, yet it was still the No. 1 activity in Vermont.
Cycling, surfing, treadmill, zumba, biking, and karate, along with the activities mentioned previously, round out the top 15.
In the interactive map below, you can see the top activities for each state:
Take a look at more activity trends in our “big city” analysis next.
Fitness Tweets in Two Major U.S. Cities
This interactive map toggles to show the top five activities tweeted about in California: yoga, swimming, marathon-running, hiking, and surfing. You’ll notice the relative concentration of yoga tweets compared with hiking tweets and the way surfing tweets punctuate the coastline.
This busy map reflects the highly active and diverse fitness routines of people living in a big city. Although certain oddball activities are mentioned throughout the metro area, their presence can be explained fairly simply: It’s true, probably not a lot of actual snowboarding is happening in Los Angeles, but we suspect those who did tweet about such unlikely activities could be training or planning a related trip.
Workout intentions in Los Angeles are dominated by gym references, just like everywhere else. But there are interesting clusters of cardio mentions around Studio City, Burbank, and Santa Monica. These glam cities are home to many cardio-focused trainers, gyms, and even dance studios – some even feature celebrities among their clientele.
In New York City, six activities topped the list: yoga, marathon-running, swimming, fishing, 5Ks, and CrossFit. This interactive map toggles to show those mentions. NYC is a known yoga oasis, filled with popular studios and skilled instructors. The city also features plenty of competitive races, so the mentions of 5K and marathon are no surprise. As for fishing, New York City is home to more than 500 miles of shoreline for rod-and-reel enthusiasts.
This map displays the incredible variety of fitness activities that take place in bustling metropolitan New York. Along with typical workouts, residents can trampoline, skateboard, and do barre workouts (a trendy technique based on classic ballet positions). Skiing and snowboarding destinations are found as close to an hour’s drive from the city.
The interactive map above shows the prevalence of cardio in Manhattan compared with other outlying boroughs. Manhattan is the smallest borough in terms of land mass yet also the one with the highest population. The focus on cardio simply may be due to a lack of outdoor exercise options and a lack of time for its busy residents as well as a plethora of cardio-focused workout options: cardio kickboxing, cardio barre, and even cardio tennis.
A Semantic Look at Fitness Tweets
Of all the 311,460 fitness-related tweets we analyzed (as described in the methodology section further above), three terms enjoyed the lion’s share with an appearance in 92% of all workout-related tweets: “gym” (49%), “workout” (26%), and “fitness” (17%).
In almost half of all tweets, the word “gym” was particularly rampant among users professing their eagerness to get in a good sweat. From complaints and mishaps to bragging rights, these tweets encompassed all the pros and cons of gym workouts. Here is a sampling:
“Guess I could swim to the gym…that’d be a good cardio warm-up, no?”
“Lol prove tori wrong went to the gym twice and got my own membership “
“When your hair scrunchy breaks at the gym……. Kk”
“Get one pair of roshe’s and they think they can outrun anyone at the gym”
When someone tweets about fitness, the content of the tweet is more than just the workout intent and the activity. We took all the tweets analyzed and compared the keyword density with a set of 250,000 completely random tweets. The words that were mentioned more frequently in fitness tweets are visualized above.
The size of the bubbles are based on keyness – uniqueness from a random tweet – rather than the number of mentions. However, each bubble represents several hundred – if not several thousand – mentions.
- Numerous brand names were mentioned, especially of gyms, which should not be surprising given the volume of gym tweets.
- Anytime Fitness, Gold’s Gym, LA Fitness, Planet Fitness, and Retro Fitness received shoutouts.
- The personal trainer app Endomondo was also present.
- Many tweets focused on scheduling: morning, today, early, work, after, hour, and week.
- Major muscle groups/body parts (abs, legs, chest, arms, and back) garnered mentions.
- Training was a focus, with specific words mentioned: training, trainer, buddy, partner, session, and sesh.
Tweeting Their Way to Fitness
Social media provides a voice for fitness enthusiasts across the country, and who says what via tweets can be telling about users’ athletic pursuits. We’ve seen here that residents of certain states turn to Twitterville to boast about specific sports and activities more than others and that gym devotees are very vocal about working out. We’ve certainly seen a correlation with how vocal people are based on the type of ellipticals they’re using – like the Bowflex Max Trainer M5 or nearly any of the Nordictrack ellipticals. Does your Twitter timeline accurately portray your exercise habits?
Fair Use: Feel free to use any of the images found in this project. When doing so, please attribute the creators by linking to this project so your audience may learn about the methodology and access all the available assets.