What Are the Impacts of the Pandemic on the Fitness Industry?
Fri, December 9, 2022

What Are the Impacts of the Pandemic on the Fitness Industry?


Consumer sentiment has been higher in China than the west in early May and with the reopening of gyms, but this might not be business as usual. In fact, there may just be a new norm in the fitness industry. 

Consumer behavior has changed as they now crave connections via exercise and video conferencing to cope with the new normal. We did not think that live streaming and a life environment would foster connection prior to the pandemic. But with fitness moving into the comforts of our homes, what are the trends we need to be aware of?

Are Gym Members Eager to Go Back to Gyms Upon Reopening?

Run Repeat, a review platform of athletic shoes, surveyed 10,824 gym members between April 24 and May 1 to see if they plan to return to gyms upon reopening and whether they plan to keep their membership or not, reported Nicholas Rizzo. Globally, 46.67% of those with gym memberships said they will not return to the gym. 50.16% of US gym membership holders said they will not return to the gym compared to those in Canada (42.20%), the UK (40.50%), and Australia (31.34%).

The UK had the highest percentage of gym members who have already canceled their gym memberships (18.92%), followed by Australia (16.51%), Canada (13.27%), and the US (10.12%). The global average was 12.39%. On the other hand, the US had the highest percentage of members who have considered canceling or not canceling their gym memberships (19.08% for “considering canceling” and 62% for "not canceling”).

The US was followed by Canada (24.32% and 61.96%), Australia (24.64% and 58.85%), and the UK (19.08% and 62%). The global average for respondents who answered “considering canceling” and “not canceling” was at 24.18% and 63.43%, respectively. Among US states, Georgia (70.56%) was the state least likely to return to gyms upon reopening followed by Maryland (63.16%), New Jersey (57.80%), Ohio (54.30%), Colorado (54.19%), and Massachusetts (54.14%).

Gender-wise, women were less likely to go back to gyms (52.25%) upon reopening than men (45.75%). However, men were more likely to cancel or consider canceling their gym memberships (37.27%; 12.91% “already canceled” and 24.36% “considering canceling”) than women (32.26%; 9.21% and 23.05%). Fitness Australia, a peak fitness industry body encouraging more Australians to be physically active, found that 85% of gym users will renew their memberships when gyms safely reopen, despite being away from these establishments for over six weeks, cited Australian Leisure Management, a leading source of information for the leisure industry.

Of those who want to return to gyms upon reopening, 71% were eager to resume regular routine, classes, or training and 77% said they need access to various equipment provided in the gym. 63% had missed the gym while 54% were doing it to support the reopening of the facility/local business. Of those who will not renew or maintain their gym membership immediately, 30% said they were likely to renew within three months of reopening. 86% continued to exercise with walking/running (36%), workout sessions like yoga, pilates, and strength training (29%). 49% exercised for more than four hours a week.



The Rise of Video Workouts

Fostering a sense of community within videos and live streams enables us to build a new hub to share emotions and to help others. The drive to repeat or continue this process is permanently etched in our minds. Moreover, there will also be shifts in mindset with regard to supporting the community to achieve your personal goals.

Indian entrepreneur Neha Motwani saw a business opportunity when she realized that Google searches for “fitness near me” were growing to nearly 40% year on year in India, stated Lucy Handley of CNBC, a world leader in business news and real-time financial market coverage. Motwani founded Fitternity in 2014, which is now the largest online marketplace for fitness services in India. Motwani does not think that individuals will go back to in-person classes once the lockdowns are lifted.

She noted, “We are not going to see January 2020 (attendance) back again in July or August or September, because there are going to be social distancing norms.” Only 25% to 30% of members will able to work out in a gym at any time, with members being reluctant to get out of the house to go to a gym or a studio, Motwani explained.

Instead, Motwani expects a simulation where an instructor will teach people in-person and broadcast the workout to viewers. Instructor Tom Wilson-Leonard noted that seeing how your body is positioned—which is useful in yoga and other activities—is the key advantage of home workouts. Wilson-Leonard acknowledged that it is difficult to make changes to how your body is positioned unless you take a video of yourself. He informed CNBC via video call, “Immediately, there is a response that’s very different from what I would normally get in (an in-person) class.”



The Need for Kids to Exercise

Children not exercising is a major concern during the pandemic. The fitness industry needs to tap into parents to help them encourage their kids to exercise, emphasizing the need for the industry to be more engaged with the core customer. This shift may be rooted in parents having to work remotely and taking care of their kids.

British fitness instructor Joe Wicks—who has become “the world’s PE teacher” thanks to his popular workout program for kids on his YouTube channel “The Body Coach TV”—hoped that children will engage in physical activity once the lockdowns are loosened. Wicks said he would love to collaborate more with schools. Hence, he is doing outreach programs or getting some sort of initiative in place in every school. The rationale behind his initiatives is to make every school have a Body Coach ambassador who promotes the work and facilitates group sessions, Wicks told CNBC via video call.

Tax Breaks for Companies that Provide Staff With Fitness Subscriptions

If you are working for large corporations, you might get a “post-pandemic fitness boost.” Fitternity has experienced a 200% increase in corporate requests due to businesses offering work from home options for employees. This trend has been seen by US fitness booking app ClassPass. 

ClassPass CEO Fritz Lanman said to CNBC through video call, “I’m hopeful that our employer program where we allow employers — like Google, like Facebook, like Morgan Stanley — to subsidize fitness and wellness for their employees.” Lanman hopes that more employers will adopt the program. While she expects ClassPass to mix online and offline workouts once lockdowns are loosened, Lanman also hopes that the government will provide tax breaks to firms that provide staff with fitness subscriptions.

The fitness industry has evolved to accommodate video or livestream workouts for viewers. We might also expect gyms to incorporate both offline and online workouts after the pandemic. We can glean that the fitness industry will start to leverage technology to encourage physical activity and to engage with children who do not exercise.