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The Home Workout Capitals of the UK

BY FirstLight

Over the past year, home workouts have become the new norm for many people. Now that we can once again exercise freely and visit gyms, are there certain areas of the UK where it’s actually healthier to workout at home?

We have taken useful metrics such as population density, air pollution and traffic to determine where nationwide it is better to stay in and exercise at home than exercise outdoors or in a crowded gym.

Hounslow is the Home Workout Capital of the UK

With some of the highest pollution levels in the UK, and incredibly busy streets/roads owing to a high population density, you’ll have a much better workout at home in this London Borough. Located in the west of the city, near Heathrow airport, it’s no surprise that residents here breathe in twice the national average NO2 levels - that’s 22.58 micrograms per cubic metre of air, versus 11.

Newham has the Worst Particulate Levels in the Country

If you’re looking to participate in outdoor activities, avoid Newham and look to other London areas for your exercise. Pollution levels here are dangerous, with 12.59 micrograms of PM2.5 present per cubic metre of air. These particles can penetrate deep into the lungs, causing heart and lung disease with enough exposure. In fact, you are twice as likely to die from asthma in Newham compared to Barnet, Harrow, Kensington and Chelsea.

Bromley is the Safest Place for Outdoor Exercise in Greater London

If you’re looking to exercise within Greater London, Bromley is the place to go. Out of all of the London Boroughs, this area in the south east of the city has the lowest population density, NO2 levels, and PM2.5 particle amounts. To put this in perspective, Islington has 16,097 people per square kilometre, while Bromley has just 2,205. If you were to exercise in the most polluted area - the City of London - a run past the Tower of London could expose you to 40.2 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre of air, as opposed to just 13.55 in Bromley.

Where are the Home Workout Capitals Outside of London?

The area with the most districts ranked behind Greater London is the West Midlands. Sandwell is the home workout capital outside of London, followed by Birmingham. Coventry and Walsall also make it into this top 20. Not only can you be left short of breath when exercising here, but the pollution levels are so severe they can even reduce the life expectancy of children living in Birmingham.

Hampshire has Worse Pollution Levels than the West Midlands

The third and fourth home workout capitals are Portsmouth and Southampton. While you may think that a sea breeze would clear the air in these coastal cities, they are some of the most polluted areas in the UK. Southampton has 18.99 NO2 micrograms per cubic metre of air, almost twice the UK average of 11. Long term exposure to pollution here causes 110 deaths every year. With a population density per km2 of 5,326 for Portsmouth and 5,065 for Southampton, both of these areas are more overcrowded than the top ranking London boroughs Hounslow and Barnet. On a more positive note, traffic levels are over five times lower than Birmingham in both cities.

Where are the Best Places for Outdoors Exercise?

If you’re looking to add a breath of fresh air to your workout, travel to the Isles of Scilly, a group of islands just off the coast of Cornwall. As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, any avid exercisers can take in views of seals, birds and a variety of flowers. Pollution levels here are drastically lower than most areas of mainland England - NO2 levels are just 2.97 micrograms per cubic metre, and PM2.5 particles are at 4.62 micrograms per cubic metre. Just 2 million miles are driven here per year, which is under 500 times less than second place Eden in Cumbria.

Which County is the Best for Outdoors Exercise?

Devon has seven areas featured in this top 20. The fourth overall best place to exercise outdoors is West Devon, with Torridge, South Hams and Teignbridge also featured. Torridge has the lowest NO2 levels in mainland England - just 3.58 micrograms per cubic metre of air, which is three times less than the national average. Low population levels across the county also ensure that you’ll be able to go out for a run or to the gym, and not worry about crowds of pedestrians and huge queues.

Where Should You Look to Live For a Pollution Free Cycle or Run?

Generally, the worst offending areas are all due to a handful of reasons. Crawley and Spelthorne, while outside of Greater London, are both near busy airports (Gatwick and Heathrow). Southampton has a busy seaport for ferries and cargo, and the largest oil refinery in the UK. In Birmingham, 6772 million kilometres are driven every year, the third most trafficked area in the UK behind Leeds and Buckinghamshire.

If you’re looking for pollution free exercise, move to an area far from airports, busy seaports, and with less traffic/fewer people.


Mark Anthony, Founder of FirstLight London: “When people go out to exercise, they tend to focus on activities, calories burned, and ultimate fitness goals. However, we’ve compiled this data to show where pollution could actually have an impact on your fitness.

Breathing in air particles and living near a heavy traffic area could indeed mean you are causing more harm than good when going out for a jog or cycle.

When exercising, you can go from breathing 15 times a minute to 60 times a minute. This could quadruple the amount of pollution inhaled.

Ideally, aim to exercise at home, or travel to a low pollution area to get that workout fix and avoid harmful inhalants. If you are desperate to get outdoors and live in one of the worst areas for outdoor workouts, invest in a particulate filtering mask, and avoid busy roads at rush hour times.”


So, that’s our roundup of the home workout capitals of the UK. It’s more important than ever to be vigilant when exercising, and to assess pollution levels, traffic, and the number of people crowding the streets, before choosing the best workout for you.

Feeling unmotivated working out at home? We understand the importance of outdoors lighting and scenery for invigorating and active exercise, incorporating this into each workout. The newly launched [email protected] streaming service brings this popular workout into the home. Purchase credits and checkout the class timetable to get started today.

View our full results here to see where your area ranks.

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