From couples making out in the middle of the gym to grown men rapping Eminem during a late-night pump session, our team has witnessed it all when it comes to weird behaviors at the gym.

While some bad gym habits are more cringey than others, one thing is for sure—it’s nearly impossible to be a gym regular and not observe annoying behaviors or a lack of workout etiquette.

But which habits annoy people most, and how many people admit to doing them themselves? We surveyed 2,000 avid gymgoers to find out.

Our research also looks into how people deal with annoying gym behaviors and whether or not they would choose to confront someone about their behavior or ignore them altogether. 

Are you guilty of these annoying behaviors when you hit the gym? Take a look at the below to find out.

The Top 10 Most Annoying Gym Behaviors, According to Survey 

  1. Hogging equipment
  2. Not sanitizing equipment 
  3. Strangers staring or approaching
  4. Strangers moving to a machine next to you
  5. Listening to music out loud
  6. Unsolicited workout advice 
  7. Not putting equipment back
  8. Checking your phone while passively on equipment
  9. Someone trying to compete with you
  10. Loud grunting, cursing, singing, or rapping
The 10 most annoying gym habits

No. 1: Hogging Gym Equipment

Mirror, mirror on the gym wall, what’s the most annoying gym habit of them all? According to results, taking over multiple pieces of gym equipment is the No. 1 culprit when it comes to obnoxious behavior at the gym. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, hogging gym equipment logged an annoyance score of 6.94 out of 10, more than any other habit we asked survey participants about.

This is why you don’t do biceps curls in the squat rack during peak hours. In a commercial gym setting, equipment becomes really limited really quickly as people race to claim dumbbells, cardio machines, and—the most coveted piece of equipment of them all—the squat rack. It’s disheartening to show up to the gym to work on your fitness goals only to wait an hour to get a barbell in the rack.

No. 2: Not Wiping Down Equipment

Stepping onto a treadmill that is covered with droplets—sometimes puddles—of the previous user’s sweat is disturbing. With a worldwide pandemic causing even the most unphased of gymgoers to be weary of coughs and sneezes, it should come as no surprise that not sanitizing equipment after using it was ranked the second for most annoying gym behavior, with an average annoyance score of 6.81 out of 10. 

“Most commercial gyms now provide sanitation stations complete with disinfecting wipes for equipment as well as personal hand sanitizers,” says Kate Meier, former commercial gym owner, certified personal trainer, and head of content at Garage Gym Reviews. “There really is no excuse for people to be sloppy.”

No. 3: Strangers Staring or Approaching

Taking third place for most annoying gym behaviors, with a 6.72 annoyance score, is strangers approaching or staring at the gym. This could be well-intentioned, of course, but our survey participants clearly found it to be bothersome to be working through reps knowing someone has eyes on them. 

Beginners in the gym may already feel self-conscious about their movement, so someone staring could increase that anxiety,” Kate says. “If nothing else, it can break your focus.”

Other Annoying Habits

Fourth on the list for annoying gym behaviors is strangers moving to a machine next to you (6.66), followed by listening to music out loud (6.62), receiving unsolicited workout advice (6.55), when people don’t put equipment away (6.55), someone checking their phone instead of using equipment (6.50), being competed with by the person next to you (6.49), and loud grunting, cursing, singing, or rapping (6.48).

Although most of these annoying behaviors could seem minuscule, their impact on the gym industry and member retention could pack a punch. 

According to longtime commercial gym employee Katie Cooper, a lack of gym etiquette can be the crux of a gym’s overall culture and membership experience. 

“With the gym market so competitive now and there being such an influx of chains with similar facilities and pricing, people will change between gyms easily, and other people with annoying habits are enough reason to switch gyms,” she says. 

Opinions on Annoying Gym Behavior by Gender

There were a few interesting divides regarding how people from different genders viewed bad gym habits:

Men Were Less Likely to be Annoyed By Someone Approaching or Staring 

The most significant discrepancy between what those who identified as men and those who identified as women found annoying was strangers approaching or staring.

Women participants in the study rated being approached or stared at as the second-most annoying habit on average after hogging equipment. Conversely, when men were asked what behaviors annoyed them the most, their top two habits were someone picking a machine next to them despite the others being free and someone listening to music aloud.

While it is impossible to give a clear-cut answer for why this is, we do know from multiple1 data sets2 that female gym-goers are more likely to be on the receiving end of harassment, which can make them wary of such behaviors. Additionally, recent studies3 show that women are more than two times as likely to be cautious of risk compared to men, which may significantly contribute to these gender-based discrepancies. 

Women Found Bad Habits More Annoying Than Men Did

Once we established the top 10 behaviors, we decided to look a little deeper into how gym annoyances vary by gender. One of the most interesting callouts we found is that, on average, women found all the habits to be more annoying than men did

One explanation for this could be that women may be predisposed to being hyper-aware of their surroundings. Kate, who has worked in fitness for nearly two decades, states that women in particular may notice bad gym habits more than men due to an inherent need to be cognizant of the people around them.

“Consider that studies have shown that more than half of women who go to gyms experience harassment,” she says. “That alone could make a woman more aware of her surroundings and therefore more likely to pick up on annoying habits.”  

Owning Up to Bad Gym Habits

Once we understood which habits participants perceived most annoying, we wanted to see which behaviors people were doing (or admitting to doing) when they went to the gym. The results?

The bad gym habits that people admit to doing

Participants were more willing to admit to doing the habits they ranked as least annoying, with 40% of people admitting to listening to music out loud, 37% admitting to taking selfies or videos, and 36% admitting to talking on the phone.

“In a world where our phones are such an integrated part of daily life, it makes sense that people were most willing to admit to these three habits,” says Amanda Capritto, ACE-certified personal trainer and editor at GGR. “Maybe this demonstrates an acceptance of the importance we place on cell phones, and instead of seeing their use in a gym setting as an annoyance, we just see it as a normal part of going to the gym.”

The habits chosen as most annoying fell somewhere in the middle of the pack:

  • 26% of participants admit they don’t sanitize their equipment
  • 24% of participants admitted to approaching or staring at someone
  • 22% of participants admit they have taken over multiple pieces of equipment at once 

The habits that participants admitted to doing to the least were:

  • Choosing a machine next to someone else despite others being free (17%)
  • Offering unsolicited workout advice (18%)
  • Loud grunting/singing/cursing/rapping (19%) 

What Is the Impact of Annoying Gym Behavior?

What good is it to get a list of bad habits if we don’t know their impact? We took a look at several consequences of these behaviors and how it affects gym members.

The impact of bad gym habits

Confronting the Culprit 

One of the most interesting findings was that nearly 60% of participants said they would confront someone for doing one of the annoying habits in a gym setting. 

However, even though women were much more annoyed overall by annoying habits, men were 20% more likely to confront someone, compared to women.  

When we asked Sam Nabil, a licensed professional counselor, about this phenomenon, he said, “According to the evolutionary biology models, males are more competitive and aggressive; these models suggest that males are more likely to confront an external individual.” 

Sam goes on to say, “There’s a belief that men can attain social status if they have the confidence and the ability to intervene. This stress in the masculine gender role explains why intervention among men was higher.”

Change the Routine

We were also curious about what approach participants would take with their workout routine when handling these gym behaviors. Would they: 

  • Go to the gym at a different time of day? 
  • Work out in another part of the gym? 
  • Go to a different gym entirely? 
  • Work out at home? 
  • Work out outside? 
  • Stop working out altogether?

As it turns out, the solution most likely to be chosen by participants was working out at home, with 38% of participants selecting this option

Do Nothing

Another option for dealing with annoying habits is to do nothing at all. While it may seem counterproductive to some, others find it to be the most rational choice. Among those people is physical therapist and frequent gymgoer Lalitha McSorley. 

“I’m not very confrontational, and I could never bring myself to lecture people in a gym,” Lathia says. “No matter what someone is doing or how annoying it may be to others, they still are at the gym trying to improve themselves. We should all be supportive of that.”

Annoying Gym Behaviors Based On Fitness Level 

The last portion of our survey looked at which habits participants were most likely to do based on their self-described fitness level. 

According to the data:

  • Advanced gymgoers are more likely to take selfies and videos at the gym than those who identify their fitness levels as intermediate or beginner. 
  • Advanced gymgoers are also the most likely to make loud noises at the gym, like singing, cursing, grunting, and rapping, compared to those who are at intermediate or beginner fitness levels.
  • Intermediate gymgoers were more likely than those with advanced or beginner fitness levels to compete with someone next to them

Tom Holland, best-selling author, TV personality and certified personal trainer with 30+ years in the fitness industry, said people with an intermediate level of fitness may simply have more to prove. 

“Beginners generally don’t have the ability, desire, or confidence to compete with others in a gym setting,” he says.“Advanced exercisers are both more likely to stick to their prescribed workouts and less likely to engage in social comparison behaviors that would lead to competition. Intermediate exercisers are also more likely to suffer from ‘overconfidence bias,’ believing they are better and more capable than their true abilities. People who are least competent in a domain are often the most likely to be overconfident in that domain.”

Final Conclusions 

It’s not surprising that in a post-pandemic era where fitness enthusiasts are flooding re-opened gyms that the top annoying behaviors included hogging equipment and people who don’t clean up after themselves. We also correctly expected that participants would admit to the more benign bad habits rather than those we found at the top of the list. 

What did surprise us is that the most frequent response we received when we asked people how they would handle annoying behaviors. Nearly 60% said they would confront the person, and 38% of respondents said they would simply work out at home (which we certainly can’t argue with). 

As the fitness landscape continues to evolve alongside phenomena like artificial intelligence technology, so-called “influencers,” and global pandemics, it will be interesting to see which annoying behaviors escalate, and which fade into oblivion.

Methodology and Limitations 

For this data study, we polled 2,000 United States residents who worked out in a public gym setting. Participants surveyed were 18 years of age and older from diverse salary ranges. Our “Annoying Gym Behavior Score” metric was calculated from participants rating a habit’s level of annoyance on a range from 1 to 10 and aggregating this data, with 1 being “not at all annoying” and 10 being “extremely irritating.” 

Fair Use Statement 

If interested in interviews or additional data, please reach out to alex@email.garagegymreviews.com. Otherwise, feel free to use this data in any online publication; we just ask that you link back to this study. 

References

  1. Barbend. Is Going to The Gym Safe? Women Widely Report Harassment. Published Aug 31, 2021. 
  2. Rizzo N. Gym Harassment: 56.37% women harassed while working out. RunRepeat. August 6, 2021. 
  3. Barber J. Women More Than Twice as Likely to be Cautious about Risk than Men. Psychological Consultancy Ltd. March 16, 2016. 

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