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How The World Works Out: Every Country’s Favourite Exercise

Across the world and throughout time, people have invented their own forms of exercise, some of which become a fad and disappear in a flash (remember backwards running and eye yoga?) and some of which stick, gaining widespread, worldwide popularity.

Yoga for example, originated in India over 5,000 years ago and then became incredibly popular in the western world in the 20th century. Pilates, which was developed in the early 20th century in Germany by a man actually named Joseph Pilates, is now practised all over the world, and along with the yoga industry is estimated to grow to over $400 billion USD in 10 years. Meanwhile cult phenomenon workouts like CrossFit and F45 have also found international fame, the former having been developed in the late 1990s in the United States, with studios now located in over 155 countries.

With so many different, fascinating ways of keeping fit hailing from every corner of the world, we asked ourselves, which workouts are the truly the most loved in each country?

Every Country's Favourite Exercise

We set out to investigate which forms of exercise each country practices the most, by analysing the Google search volumes of over 200 different types of workouts, from ab exercises to running, and calisthenics to boxercise.

The form of exercise practiced by the most nations is dance - topping the list of favourite workouts in a whopping 51 countries. Coming in a countless array of forms, dancing is as old as time and is undoubtedly a way to get the heart racing. From dance themed classes like zumba and stepper-ton, to simply dancing along to some Taylor, it's an instantly accessible way to get moving, and is easy to see why it's so popular.

PureGym Edinburgh based PT and HND Dance Artist Georgia Boyle: comments: "Dance is a fantastic form of exercise for a number of reasons. Not only is it a fun full body workout, it's an amazing form of creative expression, stress relief, and different styles of dance celebrate different cultures, all whilst bringing people together. Dance is easily accessible for all ages, and starting is so easy - try a class either in person or at home (there are some dance classes available at certain PureGyms!) or even just put music on and dance around your house! I think one of people's biggest barriers towards beginning to dance is that they've "got two left feet" or won't be a technical pro. However, getting yourself moving and feeling the true freedom and fun of moving your body to music, that's what really matters."

Dance is followed by Pilates (40 countries) and yoga (26 countries), while other workouts that are widely loved include CrossFit, favoured in 22 countries, boxercise, favoured in 12 countries, and ab workouts - with 17 different countries all prioritising toning up their abdomen above any other muscle group.

To help visualise how the world works out, we've condensed all of this data into the following colour-coded maps, broken down by a world view, as well as a more in-depth look into the differing fitness tastes of each continent.

What's the Most Popular Workout In Europe?

Around a third of the countries in Europe favour Pilates over any other workout, with the likes of Albania, Italy and Slovenia opting for the muscle strengthening sequences that are designed to help improve both your posture and flexibility. Interestingly, Pilates was first designed for rehabilitation, but soon gained popularity among the public and dancers. These days Pilates can take many forms, from Reformer to Wall Pilates - the latter of which, according to research from our 2023/2024 Fitness Report, is actually the biggest fitness trend of 2024.

Outside of yoga, Pilates and CrossFit, which altogether account for the favourite workout of 37 of Europe's 54 countries, there are some more unique methods of fitness too. Paddle boarding, where participants stand up on a board and use a paddle to move down a body of water, is currently the most favoured form of exercise in the Czech Republic, Lithuania and Slovakia, meanwhile the treadmill strut, a trend popularised on TikTok, is the workout that's getting people in Croatia moving -- highlighting just how influential social media can be in the world of fitness today.

How Do People In Asia Keep Fit?

In Asia, 12 different countries' favourite workout is dancing. Whether it's hip hop, street, ballet or contemporary - any type of dancing is a wonderful way to get a workout in. Improving coordination, timing, muscle tone, strength and endurance - it's often a very social way to get fit and one that can feel like less of 'chore' than other forms of exercise.

Phoebe Lavina @pheobelavinatraining, PureGym York Personal Trainer and dance teacher with over 15 years of professional dance training experience, says: "Dancing is one of the best forms of exercise - it works the body and mind while boosting self-esteem and confidence. Learning and retaining choreography stimulates your brain while you move continually, which benefits your heart, circulation, balance, muscles, and joints."

Surprisingly, the preferred workout in India (where yoga originated) is not yoga, but parkour, which originated in France. Parkour is sometimes described as the art of displacement, and it focuses on moving from one point to another in complex environments, which are usually outdoors - involving a combination of swinging, jumping, rolling, running and climbing. According to people who love parkour, it's a philosophy too, that centres around the importance of overcoming obstacles.

What Is The Most Popular Form Of Exercise in Africa?

Yoga and Pilates are nowhere near as popular on the African continent as they are elsewhere in the world, with just seven countries favouring yoga over other workouts, and only two regularly opting for Pilates.

Proving a huge helping hand in making it number one worldwide, dancing instead is the preferred form of fitness, with 34 different countries in Africa all searching more for dancing exercise than any other. Since dancing is so beloved all over Africa and is a hugely important part of many different African cultures, this doesn't seem too big of a surprise! Dance is seen as a way of communicating, and is an important part of many different ceremonies, rituals and celebrations in Africa, from the Maasai jumping dance traditionally performed by the Maasai tribes in Kenya and Tanzania, to the Zulu "Indlamu" dance which is often performed at weddings, festivals and ceremonies in South Africa.

Four different African countries also have climbing as their most loved workout - Burundi, Guinea, Mali and São Tomé and Príncipe. With stunning landscapes like the Bandiagara Escarpment in Mali, a sandstone cliff popular with climbers, and the lush forests of São Tomé and Príncipe that offer a bounty of beautiful scenes for climbing - this is a great way to get fit in countries where there's ample opportunity to do so.

What Are North and Central America's Favourite Workouts?

In North and Central America, it's ab workouts that take the crown - they're the favoured workout of eight different countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

Following closely behind is boxercise, which is the most loved workout in six different countries that include Puerto Rico and Honduras. A high-energy class that takes elements of boxing and combines it with a comprehensive cardiovascular workout, boxercise originated in the United Kingdom in the 90s and has since become popular all over the world -- with the goal always having been to make boxing more accessible to the public.

Pilates is also very popular in North and Central America, with the globally loved class the favourite form of workout for five different countries, including the United States of America.

How Do People In South America Keep Fit?

Boxercise peaks again in South America, with the combat-based exercise favoured in six different countries, including Bolivia, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador.

Other forms of fitness loved in South America include Pilates, running and calisthenics - a form of physical training that involves using your own bodyweight to improve strength, fitness and flexibility. Calisthenics in fact originated in Greece, deriving from the words "kallos", meaning beauty and "sthenos", meaning strength. It was a method of training for Greek soldiers, which incorporated ideology around having a harmony between physical and mental strength, so it's fascinating to see it make its way over to the other side of the planet, to become the favourite workout for many South Americans.

What Is The Most Popular Exercise In Oceania?

Abs are also on the mind in the Oceanic continent, with seven different countries searching more for ways to train their abs than any other. Meanwhile running is also of more interest here than in any other continent, with four different countries searching for running workouts over other forms of fitness, including Fiji, Samoa and Tuvalu. Tying in with the fact that islands such as Savai'i in Samoa play host to some of the most scenic running events in the world, like the breathtaking Samoa International Marathon, complete with coastal stretches and a finish in the island's lava fields.

Australia and New Zealand are both fans of Pilates over other workouts, with recent stats estimating that over 1.1 million Aussies take part in Pilates, while the method of fitness itself saw an enormous 250% growth in both Australia and New Zealand leading up to the end of 2022.

Choosing how to work out can be one of the hardest parts of getting fit. Some workouts feel great, while you might find you don't enjoy others anywhere near as much. The important part, really, is finding a workout that feels good for you. By enjoying what you're doing, not only are you getting that much-needed exercise that is so beneficial for our bodies and our minds, but you're more likely to make it a part of your everyday routine.

Laura Melia, PT and General Manager at PureGym Manchester explains why it's so important to find a form of exercise you enjoy: "Everyone is at a different stage of their fitness journey, with different levels of strength and mobility, and what works for one person might be too much or too little for another. Don't feel pressured to match anyone's workouts and avoid comparing progress with other people.

"Instead, focus on how you feel. Spending an hour in the gym isn't the only form of movement we can do. Going for a nice long walk, playing a sport with the kids or dancing is also a great way to keep your body moving".

So, whether you're team Pilates or team yoga, or you prefer boxing to calisthenics, finding the right workout for you is what you should focus on. And if you're totally stuck and want to experience some new forms of exercise with the support of a trainer and a group of likeminded individuals, find out about our fitness classes here.


We collated a list of over 200 different workouts all originating in different parts of the world, and used Google Keyword Planner to analyse which countries were searching for these terms the most.

Countries where no data/limited data was present were omitted from the results.

Where relevant, all terms were translated into the country's native language before data was analysed for each country.

Data correct as of February 2024.

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