Remember the fitness world pre-pandemic, where we used a swipe card to enter our one and only gym, instructors actually touched us to correct our weight lifting technique and we high-fived each other on the way out?
Today, as many of us are still socially distancing while exercising indoors and PTs hide behind masks, the pandemic has triggered a phenomenal evolution of the fitness industry. We’re no longer coughing up a $200-plus joining fee and signing our lives away to one gym for the next three years – no – consumers want a pick-and-mix membership, where we can do a little bit of everything on our own terms, in our own time at a price we’re willing to pay.
Enter the part-time membership, where you visit Orange Theory on Monday, your local yoga studio on Tuesday, ride the streets of Paris on your Peloton on Wednesday, smash-it at F45 on Friday and finish off the week with a meditation session via this month’s app of choice.
COVID-19 has not only pushed us to think more holistically about our health and diversify our training, it’s given us time to trial online versions at home to see what truly floats our fitness boat.
Our habits have simply shifted
We’ve experienced something remarkable these past few years which has given us time to take a hard look at the way we do life. For those who value health, exercise regimes were overhauled or habits evolved.
For many, repeated lockdowns meant finding joy in running or walking within their neighbourhood, and enjoying the free fitness buffet on YouTube. After exploring the plethora of options outside the bricks and mortar gym, many of us simply didn’t want to go back. A RunRepeat survey in March 2021 of around 11,000 gym fans globally, found that more than half had either cancelled (30 percent) or paused (26 percent) their memberships.
“It’s unlikely we’ll see things return to the way they were before COVID-19,” says Steve Pettit, CEO of the Australian Institute of Fitness.
“Instead, a combination of old meets new is becoming the norm as technology continues to drive evolutions in gym and PT offerings. Increasingly, we’ll see the fitness industry tailor bespoke programs, experiences and services to individual wants and needs through a mix of in-gym, online and hybrid models. Consumers will gain the flexibility to experience more of what they want – when, how and where they want it.”
The rise in virtual classes
The other major contributor is that we’re now totally comfortable sweating in our living room – nowadays, there’s more virtual classes than RAT tests in pharmacies.
In 2019 the global online fitness market was valued at $US6,046 million and is now projected to reach $US59,231 million by 2027, according to Allied Market Research. Further research by US company McKinsey and Company found that 70 percent of people who worked out online during the pandemic planned to continue.
“The rise of live streaming and on-demand offerings will likely continue as consumers prioritise flexibility and variety,” says Pettit.
“With fitness gadgets, wearable devices, countless apps, interactive equipment and streaming services, we now have immediate access to an unlimited amount of exercises that we can do anytime and anywhere with one click of a button. With virtual workouts, you have the ability to work out at your own convenience. You can also take your workout outside, on holiday, to a friend’s house or the comfort of your own home.”
Australian Institute of Fitness General Manager of Training Brodie Hicks adds: “There may also be people who are hesitant to train in physical spaces at certain times, due to potential localised COVID outbreaks. Given these factors, we’re seeing fitness establishments roll out hybrid offerings with a mix of in-gym, virtual live and on-demand products.”
Mental health is now considered exercise (thank the lord)
If there’s one thing the pandemic gifted us, it’s the normalisation of investing in our mental health and the fitness industry is swiftly adapting to this trend.
“In addition to physical well-being, one’s emotional, mental, and spiritual fitness has become a bigger priority.” Josh McCarter, CEO of the fitness booking platform MindBody, told Bloomberg.
Back home, the big gym players are responding: last year, F45 launched their wellness offering FS8, a mash-up of pilates, yoga and resistance training, and Fernwood Fitness announced a similar new franchise called Fernwood Fusion.
“People are getting back into the gym, but their motivation has changed,” says Emma Robertson, Business Development Manager for Wellness & Nutrition at Fernwood Fitness.
“Pre-pandemic, it was weight loss and management, but what we’re seeing now is people looking to improve their emotional and mental health, too.”
The evolution is not just a win for all aspects of our health, but for our finances, too; many businesses now offer increased options from 10 pack passes, to three classes a week, or four a month to retain members. Maybe ClassPass was onto something when it launched in 2015 and COVID-19 accelerated the trend.
So, next time you walk into a gym or fitness studio remember this: the power is in your hands. Ask for what you want, pay for what you can afford, and your health and bank balance will thank you for it.