Many people and businesses have been through difficult times, both economically and emotionally since the start of Coronavirus. However, health and fitness has never been more important, and there’s opportunities for the fitness industry to bounce back even stronger over the coming months.
Spoiler alert: strength training, group fitness and engaging, high quality classes will boom. Well-qualified instructors who unite the group and teach in a fun and motivating way will be more important than ever. They are the difference between virtual and live training experiences.
Here’s 7 reasons why the fitness business is booming:
- Home workouts are boring longer term
- Total membership is down due to COVID – but these members are coming back
- Health is the new wealth
- The biggest cake ever! Get your slice with Apple and Google
- Strong is the new sexy - bodyweight vs. strength training
- Hybrid working is an opportunity for the fitness sector
- Members are longing for experiences
1) HOME WORKOUTS ARE BORING LONGER TERM
What haven't people tried in the last few months? Pictures from garages, basements and living rooms are no longer filling our social feeds, and as restrictions ease, people are jumping at the chance to escape the limited training options that at-home workouts provide.
Everyone knows someone who has lost motivation in the latest lockdown, because even the newest YouTube video no longer offers any different bodyweight workouts or exercises. In the long run, it is difficult to keep coming up with new workouts alone, because every movement has already been repeated many times.
To provide variety with expensive equipment and prevent monotony was also not a solution for many.
In addition to the equipment, the trainer plays an essential role. They can write individualised plans for people of all ages, ethnicities, genders and fitness levels.
YouTube videos cannot determine a person's current ACTUAL condition (medical history). Pre-existing conditions or limitations are also not taken into account.
More specific goals such as muscle building must be executed with suprathreshold stimuli in addition to training planning - i.e. heavy weights. For this, a professional environment is essential. A gym ensures the following:
- A steady increase (progression) of the load through professional strength training equipment and know-how of the trainers.
- Professional equipment feels better and effectively loads the target muscles without unnecessarily straining passive structures.
- Customers love to outsource the workout planning service and enjoy the training session.
- Target group-specific offers are being sought and booked by customers as a result of the lockdown. The energy and motivation for change has decreased significantly in the recent lockdown and experts in health and fitness are needed more urgently than ever.
2) TOTAL MEMBERSHIP IS DOWN DUE TO COVID – BUT THESE MEMBERS ARE COMING BACK
It’s no surprise that there was a spike in gym membership cancellations due to COVID – even with gyms freezing memberships often at no cost, prolonged periods of closure and changes in personal circumstances for members would have caused some individuals to review their membership and realign their plans after reopening. However, there are other factors to consider to better assess the current fluctuation:
- A gym has always been subject to fluctuation due to seasonality. These fluctuations exist in every industry.
- No booking without performance! The failure of the studios to perform (forced closure) and, at the same time, the reduced income due to short-time work has led many members to dissolve their membership.
- Every human being has the need for safety. It is a logical consequence that people choose the safest of all variants and avoid intensive contact in close quarters until this will be possible again through vaccination and testing.
However, it’s not all bad news:
In some countries, up to 90% of members are already back in the gym! In the UK, where gyms in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland reopened in April, global franchise Anytime Fitness recorded the busiest month for new memberships since it began trading in the UK.
And for those who are just reopening, the opportunity for customer acquisition is huge. Competition will be high, but for gyms that get it right, it’s an exciting time to reopen.
Who has the best chances?
Strength training is more popular than ever. Health advisors support this, and the figures associated with diabetes and heart disease prove that this type of training should be offered to these groups in the future.
The decisive factor will be who will prevail here with their communication style. The combination of communication in conjunction with a customised solution could tip the scales.
However, the members longing to be able to visit their studio again have already been openly and loudly communicating on all social channels. It is fair to say that there is great longing on all sides.
3) HEALTH IS THE NEW WEALTH
A UK study shows that diabetes sufferers (aged 40+ years) are more at risk from COVID-19, and those with high blood glucose and BMI, hypertension and heart disease are also more likely to suffer from serious implications associated with Coronavirus.
So, this is where the health consciousness that existed before the crisis meets the desire for shared activity. It is this target group that is looking for an alternative that is available close to home to balance out their workday.
People of all ages have become aware that basic fitness and a strong immune system help to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. And even for those with pre-existing conditions, good basic fitness can mean the disease is milder or the side effects less severe.
As soon as even the most critical of voices are convinced, target-group-specific offerings in small, controllable groups with defined goals (e.g. weight reduction, cardiac exercise, muscle building) will boom again.
Independence is the trump card
The older generation especially has the desire for self-determination and independence. Whilst a basic need, the impact of the past 15 months has meant everyone has learned to value independence.
Here, the status of the musculature in particular is considered a marker. Sarcopenia - the age-related muscle loss - must be stopped, and the body must be strengthened against everyday demands through targeted strength units.
- The current vaccination offer additionally reduces people's fears.
- Taking the protection of their immune system into their own hands through vaccination gives added confidence.
- The desire and motivation to play sports in groups is growing among all members.
By the end of the summer across most of Europe, all those who opt to be vaccinated should have been. This will make it possible to open studios with targeted health offers, and encourage those previously more ‘at-risk’ to return to the gym, with hygiene procedures still in place.
Placement as a healthcare provider
Anyone who has managed to position themselves as a healthcare provider to their target group should be successful in acquiring new members.
Classes, online offerings and live training in high-quality small groups also build trust and loyalty among members.
The basis here is the psychological safety of the members. It must be clear that the studio is doing everything possible to protect the health and members. Awareness of this issue on the part of members is developing at the same rate as it is in the general population.
Team training standards
A successful communication strategy also takes employee training into account. Consistent wording and well-founded answers to critical questions strengthens confidence when staff are communicating key information to members.
Hand sanitisation, air purification, occupancy schedules - these hygiene compliance tools are demanded by customers just as the "cleanliness in the gym" standard was 25 years ago.
In the future, customers can expect a new standard here, which is likely to play a decisive role in member retention and acquisition.
4) THE BIGGEST CAKE EVER! GET YOUR SLICE WITH APPLE AND GOOGLE
A heart rate monitor on the wrist, motion profiles and calorie tracking. All combined in a smartphone. The tech giants are making this possible.
Your entry into the fitness market creates enormous resources. The linking of previously individual areas to real, digital solutions. Cloud-based and software solutions are creating the "smart" offering that was touted in the early digital years but failed to materialise.
In the future, professionalism and the interaction it brings will ensure that trainers and studios have more time for the right task in the gym:
Taking care of people.
- The precise control of the progress and thus the confirmation of the training recommendation
- Collecting training goals and creating extremely specific programs
- Another communication channel between the trainer and the customer
- Linkage and evaluation of the goals
- Gamification of fitness activities through the integration of apps & challenges
The "new" cake
Every person has their own motivators. Attracting sporty people with the offer of a gym and health studio is an easy task and globally, Germany and the UK are second and third respectively in the top 10 countries by number of gym members behind the US (May 2021).
It becomes more challenging when trying to target a new demographic and/or group. Inspiring a target group that does not have an affinity for sport or fitness, or who has only discovered this within recent months, can be difficult.
We find a huge, new "pie" in a group of people with an affinity for technology and digital. Contact here is being established and expanded via digital formats.
Digital/tech fans have been exposed to fitness and health through at-home fitness in recent months, which has helped build their interest.
Previously their motivation was more likely driven by pain avoidance (back, neck pain, etc.) rather than pleasure gain (fun, success), but the focus has changed.
Their self-confidence and self-efficacy have been increased through exercise sessions and many home fitness enthusiasts are ready to cross the threshold of a gym to build on their successes in the future in a professional environment.
However, the classic argument of "fitness and health" only holds water to a limited extent. The possibility of being digitally connected and online during training keeps motivation high and the inhibition threshold low.
The opportunity to engage this target group in the studio environment through targeted digital offerings, while offering a change of pace from home workouts, is huge.
Interest in health is also greater than ever before. This has also reached the "digital fans". This gives studios the opportunity to attract this new target group with tailored concepts.
Because one thing can be said for lovers of all things digital: they love data, numbers and facts, and this can be combined with the positive effects for their health. But their motivators are not called "group dynamics" or "experience orientation", but "linkage" - Digital linkage!
5) STRONG IS THE NEW SEXY - BODYWEIGHT VS. STRENGTH TRAINING
The desire for a squat rack, barbells and the equipment for athletic training is written all over the faces of the younger generation of gym goers.
Because barbells and weights are sexy, ever since the moment when the ‘Gymshark generation’ discovered these tools for body-shaping workouts.
It's always about muscle, it's about low body fat, and it's about finally doing those cool exercises they've seen on countless social media channels.
Gone are the days when barbells, racks and rigs stood lonely in the corner. All new training concepts are approved and want to be performed by the trendy target group.
Achieve your target body with suprathreshold training stimulus
A suprathreshold training stimulus, which is required to build muscle, can be set much faster with little previous knowledge on machines and with a proper basic technique on barbells. Sprints on treadmills, squats in the Smith Machine or Olympic weightlifting are the favoured exercises here.
The bodyweight exercises that are popular at home can only provide a few stimuli. They require very good prior knowledge of movement and anatomy, which is often lacking in everyday athletes. The result is injuries and an increased risk of accidents, as current figures show.
The training should also be carried out in a manageable timeframe, without having to practice hundreds of repetitions. The passive structures are senselessly overloaded, to a comparatively low stimulus on the target muscles.
Priority: appearance is everything
For Generation Z in particular, it's all about looking good, having muscular and toned bodies, and being "seen-and-be-seen." Like-minded people with the same goals can be found where? Exactly, in a gym!
A second home
Each person seeks his or her group, in which expectations, values, patterns of action and behaviour are clearly defined. For the young wild ones, the gym offers the place where they are allowed to be what they want.
Sports fans range from deep friendships to loose acquaintances. Identification comes easily in a place where they voluntarily spend much of their free time.
Recognition and satisfaction
The need for recognition does not stop at the gym. The greater the value appears to the member after a visit, the higher the likelihood that he or she will decide to make further visits (and invest time and money).
Recognition, success or an exclusive experience (e.g. the latest training equipment and methods) are decisive factors that contribute to the increase in value. The more multi-layered the perception of the member is on different levels (internal and external factors), the more valuable the visit is classified.
Motivation - but how?
Variety plays a decisive role here. Fitness studios offer a high degree of variety with dynamic concepts ranging from functional training and free weight training to pre-planned workouts, e.g. in the Hammer Strength Box, and combine effective training with the latest trends and fun and group experiences. It's not an accident that varied courses are the most effective way to retain members in the long term.
Motivation is kept high and cognitive skills are trained at the same time.
Thoughtful, progressive concepts that unite current trends, training environments and target audiences must subsequently be a part of the gym of the future.
The best fitness trainers are always looking at how they can be better
Materials, environment, exercise selection and set-up, coaching methods, music, digital support on all channels, and real trainer enthusiasts who know what they are doing are set as the standard in the future.
Varied workouts that use intelligent concepts to allow coaches to put their potential completely into coaching will influence the future more than ever.
6) HYBRID WORKING IS AS AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THE FITNESS SECTOR
The new working model challenges every employee. The doubts as to whether it could be implemented at all were great, but have been mastered. From now on, hybrid working is an integral part of our lives.
You don't have to be an expert to know that this will create new health challenges for many people.
Exercise becomes a chore in this setup to continue to maintain a high quality of life, even as commutes get shorter and the sofa is so close. On the other hand, the reduced commute to work also provides opportunities for regular training at the gym.
For studios, the opportunity here is to create offerings that attract workers and offer them solutions close to home before, during or after the home office.
Above all, short training sessions which take place several times a week with a higher frequency of visits than before provide variety and an increased quality of life, as well as contact with fellow members.
In view of the changing stress on the body and the needs of exercisers, it makes sense to revise the group exercise schedule accordingly, and create offerings that essentially focus on three main target groups:
- basic fitness and performance
- training of the trunk and lower body
- athletic training and muscle building
7) LONGING FOR EXPERIENCES
In addition to unsatisfied desire, longing is an expression of fundamental dissatisfaction. It is understandable that this feeling is intensified by the uncertainties of the last few months.
Variety is an important component to counteract this. The brain loves intense experiences and new inspirations. It stays awake and powerful.
Monotony, on the other hand, tires the brain and slows down cognitive processes. The absence of inspiring experiences and genuine social interaction demotivates and intensifies depressive moods.
In addition, there is the home office situation, which most people find extremely stressful.
The desire to have positive experiences together is growing. Visits to the theatre and cinema, concerts, get-togethers with like-minded people almost feel like an event.
The lack of these over past months leads organisers/operators to conclude that there is an extreme pent-up demand of emotional moments among people that needs to be satisfied.
As a carryover to the fitness industry, this means that group experiences and emotional workouts in engaging environments are exactly the right answer to the current situation.
The best way to influence this is to address all channels of perception. These include:
- Training equipment (feel)
- Wall, floor, ceiling design (see)
- Sound (listen)
- Coaching style