Post-breakup, people go about healing in different ways. Some people eat chocolate and spend hours in bed, while others hit the gym with an intense vigor usually reserved for professional athletes. This made us curious about the impact that breakups had on individuals’ fitness habits. 

Our Garage Gym Reviews team surveyed 1,700 people who have been through a breakup in the last five years to better understand working out after a breakup—namely, how the end of a relationship influences people’s exercise frequency and motivations to workout, as well as the effectiveness of exercise as a coping mechanism. We also looked at how specific factors of the relationship play a part in post-breakup exercise behavior.  

Key Findings:

  • Most people truly do commit to fitness habits after breakups—breakups pushed 82% of people to begin exercising more, including:
    • Exercising 184% more days per week on average—going from 1.7 days pre-breakup to 4.7 days post-breakup
    • 70% of people who stuck to it by maintaining or increasing their exercise frequency further
  • 64% of those with breakups from 12+ months ago maintained their post-breakup increase in exercise
  • While “Showing up my ex” was the No. 1 motivator for people exercising short term, these people were the least likely to maintain workout frequency over time
  • Revenge-related fitness goals are twice as common among people who were cheated on
  • Mental health is the primary motivation to exercise for dumpees, compared to physical health for dumpers
  • 84% of people report exercise as an effective way to get over their breakup

How Do Breakups Impact Our Workout Habits? 

Working out is a popular way to deal with the early stages of a break up, and we know expert fitness tips often include using exercise to improve mental health. For a lot of people, this may be just what they need to kick-start their fitness journey. We found in our data collection that people truly commit to fitness after breakups. 

The survey shows that of the 82% of people who work out more initially after their breakup, 70% stick to or even increase the amount they workout long term. 

Breakups Lead to More Workout Days Per Week 

On average, those who started working out post-breakup increased the days they worked out each week by 184% (on average, 1.1 days a week pre-breakup to 4.7 days a week post-breakup).

Average days per week exercised pre and post breakup graphic

Our data shows that regardless of how many days a week people were working out before the breakup, they still managed to increase days exercised post-breakup.

A graphic for workout days pre and post breakup

The below data points are based on averages we found comparing how much people were working out before a breakup to how often they worked out after the split:

  • 0 days a week pre-breakup → 3.0 days a week post-breakup
  • 1 day a week pre-breakup → 4.1 days a week post-breakup
  • 2 days a week pre-breakup → 5.5 days a week post-breakup
  • 3 days a week pre-breakup → 5.5 days a week post-breakup
  • Those that exercised the most (4 to 6 days a week) pre-breakup still saw a significant increase (6.6 days a week)

Longevity of the Post-Breakup Workout Surge

Our data revealed overwhelmingly positive results about people’s ability to start and maintain fitness habits. In fact, 69% of people who are 12+ months past their breakup either maintained or increased their workout commitment. To put this in perspective, breakups are 763% more powerful at helping you start and stick to a new habit than New Year’s Resolutions, where only 8% of people maintain them.

timeline graphic for post-breakup workout article

On average:

  • 77% stayed committed to their exercise habits 3 to 6 months post-breakup
  • 69% stayed committed to their exercise habits 12+ months post-breakup

Motivations for Working Out Post-Breakup

We found that there were five main motivators for working out post-breakup, including “showing up your ex,” improving mental health, improving physical health, gaining confidence, and meeting new people.

number one motivator for exercise post-breakup article

Our data reveals that while the No. 1 motivator for those who only exercised more the first month was “showing up my ex,” these people were least likely to maintain workout consistency long term.

Top Motivators for Those Who Only Exercised More the First Month

#1 Showing Up Your Ex—31%
#2 Improve Mental Health—30%
#3 Improve Physical Health—21%
#4 Gain Confidence—15%
#5 Meet New People—3% 

Top Motivators for Those Who Exercised More in the Long Term

#1 Meet New People—78% maintained or increased long term
#2 Improving Mental Health—74% maintained or increased long term
#3 Improving Physical Health—71% maintained or increased long term 
#4 Gain Confidence—67% maintained or increased long term
#5 Showing Up Your Ex—66% maintained or increased long term 

This suggests that over time, intrinsic motivators pay off in the long run. Spite and animosity may initially boost workouts, but focusing on physical and mental health improvements may be more beneficial in forming sustainable habits. 

Working Out: The Breakup Antidote

Our data shows that 84% of people found exercise somewhat effective or very effective in moving on post-breakup.

A graphic for coping with a breakup

92% of people whose primary motivation was to “show up their ex” attest that working out was an effective way to deal with their breakup.

A graphic for coping with a breakup by motivator

Breakup Specifics Matter

We found significant distinctions when it comes to specifics around the breakup itself, including gender and how the relationship ended.

Men vs Women

Men listed their No. 1 motivator post-breakup as improving physical health (38%) while women listed improving mental health (45%).

Good Terms vs Bad Terms

  • Improving mental health was the most popular motivator (25%) for those whose relationships ended on bad terms, while improving physical health (18%) was the most popular motivator for those who ended on good terms.
  • Those who went through a bad breakup are 81% less likely to exercise more in the long term if they don’t increase exercise within the first month after the breakup. 
  • Conversely, those who ended their relationship on good terms were only 43% less likely to increase their workout regimen long-term if they didn’t get started a month after the split.

Cheating vs Cheating on

  • Cheating victims are almost 2x more likely to use revenge-based fitness as their motivation for working out post-breakup. 

Dumper vs Dumpees

Our data shows that motivations varied depending on whether you were the person initiating the breakup or the person on the receiving end. 

  • “Dumpees” attribute mental health as their primary fitness motivator post-breakup, while dumpers prioritize physical health.
  • 79% of male dumpees say they were more motivated to exercise due to their breakup.
  • 82% of men reported working out more frequently after getting dumped, compared to only 70% of female dumpees who admit they were more motivated to exercise due to their breakup.

Final Thoughts on Working Out After a Breakup

Breakups are the worst, but the data shows that some good may come of it. A significant majority of people (82%) turn to fitness after a split, and the majority of those people end up making long-term lifestyle changes in maintaining or improving those fitness routines.

Whether it’s revenge on an ex, improving mental health, or boosting physical health, the motivation to exercise results in people moving more, which is something we at GGR can get behind.

Methodology

Garage Gym Reviews surveyed 1,700 people who have been through a breakup in the last five years about how their breakups impacted their exercise frequency immediately after the breakup and long term. 

Fair Use Statement 

If you have any questions about the information mentioned above, or are interested in an interview, please feel free to get in touch with Jonathan Weissberg (jonathan@email.garagegymreviews.com), the fitness research associate at Garage Gym Reviews. 

You are welcome to use any of the findings, data, and graphs from this report, but we do ask that you please provide a link back to our study to cite the original data source. 

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