To see an industry experiencing tremendous change, look no further than the fitness industry. This sector has been undergoing changes before the pandemic, but COVID-19 has pushed the fast-forward button. Fitness studios are shutting their doors, while adjusting to the new reality to meet evolving consumer demands. According to fitness lobby group International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association 15 per cent of U.S. gyms had permanently closed by Sept 30th of 2020 as a result of COVID.
While traditional brick and mortar locations continue to struggle, a new wave of at-home fitness programs is emerging that will leave lasting consequences on the industry. Any business in this space must understand the trends driving these changes if they want to shape up for the future.
The main challenge facing fitness companies today is the speed of adapting to the five major trends that have escalated during the pandemic:
1. Awareness of health and fitness
Health and wellness have emerged as key focus areas for consumers throughout COVID. In today’s connected world, more people are talking about their mental health and willing to seek help. Sometimes, that help comes in the form of physical exercise. Sixty five per cent of people across four countries are now more likely to consider their health in day-to-day decision-making, according to an Ipsos survey carried out on behalf of pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline. People are working out even more than before, with 56 per cent of respondents exercising at least five times per week, Forbes has reported, citing a survey conducted by software scheduling company Mindbody.
2. Rise of at-home fitness
With lockdown measures, many people have been forced to adapt to working out in their homes. Consumers are increasingly investing in home fitness – in 2020, health and fitness equipment revenue more than doubled to $2.3 billion from March to October, according to market research company NPD’s retail data as reported by The Washington Post. Working out from home has caused a mindset shift for many on what can be achieved via home fitness. Only 15.2 per cent of current gym members think a gym membership is the best way to achieve their fitness goals in 2021 according to media outlet RunRepeat. This is a huge drop from 63.3 per cent of gym members who said that at the start of 2020.
Tying into this trend, the home has “also turned into a wellness hub, where people build their self-care routines and find simple joy in their everyday lives,” according to Jemma Shin, consumer insight strategist with trend forecasting firm WGSN.
3. Digital fitness growth
To give you an idea of the scope of the burgeoning online fitness market, this segment is expected to grow 30 per cent through 2026, according to economic forecasting company Global Market Insights. Health and fitness app downloads increased by 46 per cent in the first half of 2020, according to independent think-tank World Economic Forum. Additionally, in a recent survey, 46 per cent of participants stated that they intend to make virtual classes a regular part of their routine, even after studios reopen, Forbes has reported, citing Mindbody data.
Digital gadgets such as heart rate monitors, wearables and other fitness tools have grown in popularity in recent years as a way of helping people stay on track of their fitness goals through metrics in real-time. The demand for fitness wearable grew by 60 million units, a trend that is expected to continue well into 2021, according to a recent IDC report, cited by media outlet Entrepreneur.
The gym is due for a makeover – and tech will continue to play a vital role in turning it into a truly immersive experience. What’s more, tech can play a part in innovative imagery and lighting to improve the quality of fitness classes. For example, global fitness program Les Mills uses a cinema-scale screen, taking participants on a journey through digitally-created worlds. The program also features interactive games to motivate users to achieve their goals.
4. The need for community
Building a community – a network of engaged and connected clients is critical for the success of gyms and fitness centres. During COVID, many people felt isolated and alone, and craved social fitness that provided a sense of belonging. Studios have taken this to a new level by installing bars, cafes and lounges, with the goal of giving customers the opportunity to connect. From a digital perspective, apps may be used to facilitate community building through location-based or topic-based chat rooms, and encourage conversations around shared passions and goals that motivate people to stay active and pursue a healthy lifestyle. Leveraging technology to create and sustain a community of like-minded individuals is a great opportunity for gyms, studios and fitness centres to build a unique value proposition.
5. Convenience and flexibility
On-demand fitness looks set to continue its skyward trajectory. Consumers crave the convenience and flexibility to conduct their workouts wherever, however and whenever they want. The Beachbody survey found that 85 per cent of respondents underscored the convenience and accessibility benefits of working out at home. More and more people favour at-home workouts and are looking for ways to stay fit while saving time; at-home fitness means no more time is wasted packing a gym bag and driving back and forth to a physical location. Gyms and fitness studios will struggle to compete with at-home fitness on the convenience factor.
Read on below for a glimpse on how fitness platform Peloton has turned these trends into tailwinds that give it the competitive edge in today’s market.
Peloton: A quick case study
Peloton, the largest interactive fitness platform, predominantly known for its stationary spin bike and treadmill, is among fitness companies that are effectively delivering on these 5 trends. The company has seen tremendous revenue growth, skyrocketing 232.4 per cent year-on-year in 2020.
Health & wellness – Peloton leverages a Health and Wellness Advisory Council which includes medical professionals, doctors and researchers. The group develops community-focused content and products for the platform to help Peloton evolve into a unique provider of balanced fitness regimes.
Rise of at-home fitness – Peloton subscriptions for virtual classes has increased approximately six times from Q3 2019 to Q2 2021, and is expected to continue into the future.
Digital fitness growth – Peloton’s most popular add-on feature is the heart rate monitor. The gadget connects instantly to the app to track the user’s heart rate. Peloton has also released other apps to offer over 17,000 classes.
Community – Peloton has created both a virtual and physical community. People attending in-person classes in New York walk through a boutique and lounge area with a smoothie and snack bar. The Peloton Facebook page allows users to connect and share photos and success stories from their workout routines. Ultimately, the community enables individuals to hold one another accountable. Additionally, the instructors have been built into their brand, enabling users to learn about instructor’s personalities and journeys, and interact with them during in-person classes. Other Peloton community features allowing users to stay connected include:
- Leaderboard. The board enables access to a list of top performers within the class.
- Following friends. This feature empowers users to access a friend’s Peloton journey and stay up to date on their success.
Additional flexibility. Users are able to book a superior studio cycling class on a high-tech bike at home, any time they want. This means they gain access to motivational instructors and a supportive community from the comfort of their own home.
No one can accurately predict what the future of fitness will look like, however, these five trends are likely to persist, even after the pandemic. Whether through bricks and mortar, virtual, or a mix of both, fitness companies that position themselves to take advantage of these trends will be in good shape to drive sustainable growth.