The fitness industry has changed dramatically during the coronavirus pandemic, and that’s altered our overall fitness and exercise experience. Many of our fitness predictions and resolutions for 2020 changed midyear to account for changing market conditions and new business priorities, according to “Top Fitness Industry Trend Predictions Post-COVID” for Club Solutions Magazine.
As a result of this evolution, there are a number of new fitness trends to watch in 2021.
WEARABLE TECHNOLOGY (AND SMART CLOTHING)
Wearable technology was the top fitness trend in 2020. It’s been ranked number one almost every year since 2016, except for when it was ranked third in 2018, according to a “Worldwide Survey Of Fitness Trends For 2020” for ASCM’s Health and Fitness Journal. Once again, it’s expected to be one of the top fitness trends in 2021.
“Wearables consist not only of fitness trackers and smartwatches. They also come in a range of other devices, such as heart rate monitors and GPS trackers, such as those used when charting a route for cycling,” according to “11 Latest Fitness Trends: 2020/2021 Data, Statistics & Predictions” for CompareCamp. “Over the years, their accuracy has improved and their capabilities have expanded, with some now offering even AI solutions to fitness. Others, for example, also use VR games for fitness.”
In addition to wearable devices, smart clothing like vibrating leggings offer valuable feedback such as showing your alignment flaws during a workout session, according to “20 Fitness Trends you Must be Aware of in 2020” for Women Fitness Magazine.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, many clubs had begun to test the viability of virtual fitness. Some had mobile apps with on-demand libraries of virtual workouts, while others had implemented virtual coaching.
“The vast majority of clubs in the industry were dipping their toes in the water, so to speak, as far as offering online classes and resources for members to exercise at home or that complemented the in-club experience,” says Brent Darden, chair of REX Roundtables and founder of Brent Darden Consulting. “They were looking for solutions for members who were not able to get to the club because of work commitments or who were out of town on vacation. So clubs were experimenting or thinking, ‘We need to really move more toward that,’ and this was accelerated tremendously during the shutdown with it becoming a necessity.”
Paula Neubert, general manager and president of Club Greenwood in Colorado, says that the launch of more robust virtual offerings is something that her club, and the industry as a whole, can positively benefit from moving forward.
CLEANING AND SANITIZING PRACTICES
Now, more than ever, gym-goers will be expecting thorough cleaning strategies to help them feel at ease when they return, according to “5 Steps to Cleaning Your Fitness Business in the Wake of COVID-19” for Mindbody. In fact, 92 percent of consumers surveyed said that following rigorous sanitization guidelines would be important in their decision to visit a fitness business when it reopens.
“The member needs to see you’re doing something different after the shutdown and ongoing [more] than you did before the shutdown,” says Blair McHaney, CEO of MXM and owner of WORX gyms in Wenatchee, Washington, to Club Solutions Magazine. “They’re expecting to see an improvement there. They’re not going to be able to see all the improvements – like ultraviolet in the ductwork or fogging that happens after hours. But you should make sure they see it through videos and messaging. Those best practices have to be well communicated.”
McHaney says that some of the most important aspects surrounding cleaning and sanitizing for fitness clubs to consider post-COVID are members seeing other members cleaning the equipment that they use; staff having a strategy for enforcing the rules in a way that’s empathetic and effective; and clubs having cleaning and sanitizing products readily available, plentiful and strategically placed throughout.
FOCUSING ON BODY AND MIND TRAINING
The trend toward topics such as yoga, mental training or Pilates already existed before the coronavirus, but it has been intensified by the pandemic, according to ISPO.com.
“More and more people want to combine physical training with mental relaxation,” according to ISPO.com. “This desire is triggered not only by job-related stress, also by the strenuous homeschooling with children or financial and health fears in connection with the pandemic.”
Practices such as progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, meditation, mindfulness, biofeedback and yoga are a few ways to strengthen body-mind connections, according to “Body-Mind Integration: Training Attention for Mental and Physical Health” for PositivePsychology.com.
“The mind and the body are the greatest tools we possess to achieve positive well-being,” according to PositivePsychology.com. “It is imperative that we learn body intelligence, and use it as part of the treatment and prevention of physical and mental illness.”
CATERING TO GENERATIONAL NEEDS
Few industries will benefit as directly from the rise of millennials’ economic power as the fitness industry, according to CB Insights. More motivated to stay in shape than previous generations, 76 percent of millennials exercise at least once a week compared to 70 percent of Gen Xers and 64% of baby boomers.
Millennials are also big spenders when it comes to gym memberships, dropping almost $7 billion annually, which is double the amount spent by Gen Xers and baby boomers.
“For corona risk groups and senior citizens, health and fitness are just as important as for the rest of the population. It makes seniors a core target group that must be wooed with special offers and training opportunities,” according to ISPO.com. “This can range from individual training or workouts in small training groups to special premises and digital offers for risk-free training at home.”
INCREASED FOCUS ON HIIT
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) was ranked the number two trend in 2020, according to ASCM’s Health and Fitness Journal, and it’s looking as if it’ll continue to remain one of the top fitness trends in 2021.
“One benefit is that HIIT burns calories faster than a lengthy, low-intensity exercise would (such as running in place),” according to CompareCamp. “In addition, HIIT exercises usually take significantly less time than regular ones, making them attractive to busy people. Plus, you don’t need specialized equipment to do it – mixing it up in a small space, even with bodyweight training, reaps all its benefits.”
GROUP TRAINING (AND OUTDOOR GROUP TRAINING)
Group training was the third-ranked trend in 2020, according to ASCM’s Health and Fitness Journal. While the location for group training sessions may be moved from indoors to outdoors (if possible) in 2021, group training sessions are predicted to be one of the top trends once again in 2021.
“Group training has been on a steady uptick since 2017, and has only gotten more popular since then,” according to CompareCamp. “Boutique fitness studios catering to groups have likewise trended, and thus trainers that seem like a cross between motivational speakers, fitness instructors, and even DJs have proliferated in its wake.”
And the topic of outdoor fitness is also gaining in importance because of the coronavirus, according to ISPO.com.
“Intensive training in particular is much less dangerous outdoors than indoors because of the draft,” according to ISPO.com. “This can contribute to the fact that more and more equipment and activities are being moved from gyms to the outside.”
“Getting back into the swing of things post-COVID, our bodies will need to re-acclimate to being mobile again,” says Nick Trosko, vice-president of global business at Therabody, to Club Solutions Magazine. “Although recovery is mostly seen as a post-workout protocol, it is something that can be integrated throughout an entire workout or activity. Warming up, activating your body and adding a recovery routine plays an important part in overall wellness and mobility.”
Club Solutions says that after the pandemic, it’s more important than ever for gyms and fitness centers to explain to members how vital recovery and percussive therapy can be not only for their fitness, but also for their daily lives.