Gen Z returns to my gym

As of early this year, I have noticed something in my gym: the young people have returned in large numbers.

The young people were there in large numbers before COVID, usually to my annoyance. They were the ones who were always holding up everyone else, as they attempted to text while they worked out. I often found myself scheduling my workouts when Gen Z members were likely to be fewest in number.

The pandemic, however, bred a different kind of teen and young adult: homo housebound-introvertus. Throughout the lockdowns of 2020-1, an entire cohort of young people sequestered themselves in their rooms. There they became [even less] engaged in the real world, and [even more] immersed in the make-believe realm of social media.

They didn’t go to the gym, either. My gym was closed for only a few months in 2020, from the middle of March through early June. But the young people didn’t return when the gym reopened.

They didn’t return in 2021, 2022, or most of 2023, either.

While I don’t have any empirical data to back this up, the COVID lockdowns seemed to have had another effect on teens and young adults: weight gain. Many of them packed on the pounds. Here in Ohio, the average 16- to 24-year-old was beginning to look like a 50-year-old who had spent decades sitting behind a desk and eating too many takeout lunches from McDonald’s. I was starting to wonder how many of those kids would even make it to the age of 50, the way they were going.

Here’s the thing about youth culture, though: its only constant is change. If the recent (early 2024) influx of young people in my gym is any indication, the era of the Gen Z marshmallow may be coming to an end.

They’re still neurotically obsessive about their phones, though. The downside of the youth resurgence in my gym is the return of the inconsiderate member who sits on the ab crunch machine for five minutes while he checks his text messages. Because—dude, you can’t let a single text message go unread for even five minutes.

That’s as annoying as ever. But it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to bear for a healthier generation of young adults. I don’t want them all to die off before I do, after all.