By Patrick Craig, Special AFS Contributor
2020 has definitely been a rocky road for the fitness industry. At least two major franchises ducked under Chapter 11 protection between March and December. Many more small independent studios and gyms folded, especially in states where stringent lockdowns were imposed. But despite all the draconian measures, the general effect of the lockdowns was to push the fitness industry in an entirely new and profitable direction.
As I mentioned in my last article, the fitness Industry came back strong in the last few months by moving online with ZOOM and other live-stream programs—helping their clients to discover that for busy mid-life folks on the go with kids and jobs and a regular hectic daily schedule, being able to do a fitness program at home was perhaps preferable to adding another travel/appointment to an already busy schedule.
Along with this move online, more big changes have come to the industry and I’m going to talk about them in this article. Instead of the old plan of “higher, faster, and further,” this next year will see more combining of health and fitness, more holistic and nutritional products combined with training, and specialization in targeted clientele such as high-risk groups. I call these changes the seven most important fitness trends for 2021.
Gyms have to meet high hygiene standards
Most people stayed in shape during the lockdown by simply running, walking, doing a home exercise program on their own, or using live-streaming apps to join online classes. Attendance at classes or personal fitness training at facilities dropped significantly because most enthusiasts were concerned that going back to the gym entailed the risk of corona infection. In Germany over one million of the eleven million adherents quit their gyms because of this concern. It is therefore in the studio’s own interest to ensure the highest levels of cleanliness and hygiene if they are to win back the confidence of their clients.
Online apps are the new “big deal”
In this era of closed facilities, most sports and fitness fans have turned to live-stream online offers. Gyms and studios that are using software that facilitates this by linking training calendars and client database payment methods with ZOOM and other live-stream apps are seeing a steady uptick in their bottom line. Peloton bikes that allow the enthusiast to connect with other cyclers in digital competition via the Internet have also seen a steady rise in sales.
The great outdoors is calling
Outdoor fitness is gaining rapidly in importance simply because the chance of COVID infection is dramatically reduced outside. Fitness studios in the know will be finding areas around their club where they can set up equipment and activities outdoors.
So along with adding health focus to fitness training offers, the trend for 2021 is going to focus on specific groups with highly targeted needs. All-around studios will continue to exist, but boutique and micro studios with tailor-made offers will attract more and more clients.
More focus on health options and nutrition in fitness offers
As we have seen, the people most affected by the virus are those with compromised immune systems. So many studios are adding immune-boosting supplements and activities to their list of offers. Strength and cardio routines coupled with a healthy diet and the right nutrients will see facilities changing from gyms to health-oriented fitness facilities.
Seniors will become a core target group in 2021
Individualization is advancing in all areas of life. So along with adding health focus to fitness training offers, the trend for 2021 is going to focus on specific groups with highly targeted needs. All-around studios will continue to exist, but boutique and micro studios with tailor-made offers will attract more and more clients. Corona risk is highest among seniors, so clubs that offer healthy living, immune system building, and digital offers for risk-free training at home are going to see a lot of growth.
Broadening the connection between body and mind through fitness training
Yoga, Pilates, and mental training have been around for a long time, but the interest in them has been intensified by the pandemic. It’s been a very stressful time for many fitness enthusiasts and consequently, they want to combine physical training with mental relaxation. This need is triggered not only by societal stress, but also by financial or health concerns, the stress of homeschooling children, or even job stress. In 2021 more and more studios and gyms will add psychological strengthening avenues to their standard fitness and healthy living training.
Sports and fitness training will merge
The line between going to the gym to train or exercising outside will become less and less distinct as equipment fans move to alternative indoor and outdoor offers using apps or even their phones to train.
So where do we go from here?
The pandemic has changed the fitness industry in ways we would not have imagined only a year ago. Gym owner and fitness studio operators need to take a long look at these trends I’ve mentioned. I believe it’s time to see how to can move your facility and your offerings out of the old “train hard, train fast, get six-pack abs” mentality and get your business more in line with the new direction of your industry.
Clean facilities, online apps, re-orienting your business to include health, nutrition, and mental strengthening, and the other trends I mentioned—finding a way to get your club moving in a new direction will be critical if you want to survive and grow in 2021.
Patrick Craig has worked in the Marketing Industry for the past twenty years. He is a published author and has written extensively about the fitness industry, particularly the gym software aspect of it. He has been with Money Movers, Inc. for the last six years where he serves as the Marketing and Operations Manager, web designer and coder, and maintains the custom websites Money Movers, Inc. develops for their Online Business Manager gym software clients.