In every aspect of our lives, the pandemic has had some effect. The fitness industry suffered just as many other industry sectors did, but it is bouncing back.
I’ve taken some time to examine trends in the sector, which I think will shape the way we undertake exercise and fitness activities for the next few years to come.
Firstly – and I’ve written my thoughts on this before – the biggest, industry-defining change has been the pivot to online…which looks like it’s here to stay.
While some health clubs closed for good, savvy venues managed to restructure their services to suit the new normal.
Online training is the number one trend shaping the sector and the ‘new normal’ for many. In fact, a global fitness trends survey revealed that online fitness training jumped up 26 places to the number one spot in 2020.
From yoga studios via personal training to massive group events, fitness is now firmly online. This has also created an upswing in people taking part in fitness classes – as they are often more incentivised to take part because they don’t have to travel to a class or feel concerned about some of the issues which might have held them back in the past – such as ability, size or feeling comfortable in a gym.
Of course, the impact on the industry is that traditional bricks and mortar companies have had to pivot to much greater use of technology than ever before.
Just like the retail sector, urgent, large investment means the industry is also keen to see the trend remain, if only to recoup their technology investments.
Virtual training is a close second – with technology linking equipment with the user and the provider. It’s far more commonplace now, than just a year or so ago, to use a piece of equipment at home and experience a virtual track, course or fitness regime. I’m a huge fan of Peloton, the technology-driven static bike training company.
Others are emerging on the scene, such as Vaha. Vaha is a large, interactive mirror that delivers personalised, immersive sessions for both the body and mind.
The mirror – a little like a giant mobile phone screen – delivers instructions for users to follow. Through the device, you can enjoy live and on-demand classes, and one-to-one personal training.
While online classes are fun to do at home, I see a strong surge towards high-tech digitally-linked equipment enabling some incredible, shared virtual fitness experiences at home.
Wearable tech is another strong growth sector. Fitbit is probably the leader in this sector, allowing users to wear a watch-like device that monitors your step count, heart rate, daily activity levels and other vital signs.
Smartphones now include a great deal of health data, gathering, which in certain countries can be linked to your medical records.
Wearable tech is a fascinating growth area and will lead to us all having healthier lives and carefully monitored goals. Another aspect to wearable tech we will see more of in the coming years are DNA dongles – which guide you, based on your overall health, metabolism and weight, for example, to eat the right foods and undertake good exercise practices.
Exercise is Medicine – The concept of treating exercise as a form of medicine is not new, but with the rise of technology, data gathering and increasingly consumer knowledge about the power of certain foods, we will see a rise in this area.
There’s certainly an undisputed connection between exercise and overall health. Technology will play a substantial role here, while encouraging exercise as part of all our health regimes is something that will have enormous benefits on society and on all our wellbeing.
Outdoor exercise and free weight training – Nothing beats the great outdoors, from a fast stroll through the park to simple weight lifting, these areas look set to remain ever-popular.
Outdoor exercise is being met with renewed enthusiasm post-pandemic, as the world emerges from behind closed doors and is looking to once again enjoy the freedom we all took for granted.
Despite the rise of technology, virtual training equipment and data-driven apps, perhaps what we still all treasure most is a walk, jog or bike ride with friends or family.
Technology – rolled out rapidly thanks to the pandemic – has opened new doors into the world of fitness, made some activities more accessible and allowed us to maintain good health during a time when none of us could afford to take it for granted.
It’s not much of a leap to suggest technology has become a key enabler of exercise in the modern world, yet what the trends show is that we humans still love getting outside and taking part in simple, fun exercise. Let’s see what the trends deliver this year!