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The deep dive: fitness trends for the year ahead

The deep dive: fitness trends for the year ahead

Once upon a time, before a global pandemic took over our lives, millions of people all over the globe used to start the new year with one thing in common: a resolution to start going to the gym. There may not be many things to be grateful for when looking back at 2020, but taking the guilt out of not sweating in a room full of other sweaty people is surely among them for many. However, for many others (often nutty fitness lovers) the shutdown of traditional gyms lead to the rise of home workouts as an alternative. According to Adobe’s digital economy index, sales of fitness equipment shot up 55% in the first quarter of 2020; sending the value of the fitness industry on an upwards trajectory for the year. Moreover, research by Wellness creatives shows that the global fitness market is now worth about $94.7b with over 184 million consumers worldwide.


Influencer-powered change

Fitness influencers, whose role was already on the rise, led the way for those who wanted to do mountain climbers in their living room instead of just binge on Netflix. And so, people started to stream at-home fitness programs, choosing Chloe Ting over Tiger King (I know I did, only to fail around day 5 of her flat tummy challenge). To illustrate the audience size that some influencers’ command, Chloe’s videos have over 289 million views and have made it to the list of YouTube’s most seen of 2020 (watch out, Justin Bieber).

Subscriptions to digital fitness apps skyrocketed as well, as people were not just streaming videos off YouTube. These subscriptions grew by over 46% in the first half of 2020, touching a 55% rise in the MENA region. Many of these apps were influencer-created too, take Kayla Itsines’ BBG or Michelle Lewin’s Fitplan, both of which allow users to exercise with minimal or even no equipment from the comfort of their homes. The apps offered users nutritional plans too, really leaving you no excuse to laze around in 2020… how annoying was that?

But what makes these influencer-created content more appealing than those put out there by traditional fitness companies such as Nike or Reebok? The general appeal of influencers is felt across all industries. As these people put themselves out there in the “human” way which brands can not replicate, influencers are simply more relatable.

As lockdowns continue to be reimposed around the world as we kick off 2021, we see the importance of at-home digital fitness content (regardless of their hosting platform) to continue to grow in prominence.


Go digital or go home

For the fitness junkies who needed something more intense than bodyweight exercises, several companies catered to their needs by offering smart home equipment backed with technological intelligence for an extra kick. Along with made-for-home digital fitness content, companies like Peloton (PTON), Mirror, and Echelon saw an increase in demand for their products, indicating that consumers are ever more willing to spend money on an end-to-end fitness experience at home.

To pick on one company’s success, spin-cycling giant Peloton, famous for both its digital classes and smart home fitness bikes, saw its sales explode in 2020 by over 172%. For those of you who felt FOMO and panic-bought Peloton’s $3,000 bikes, we wonder if the company’s easy payment installment schemes through Affirm swayed your decision. PS- Affirm just went public a few days ago and saw its value grow over 90% on the day of its IPO!

Since, Peloton has expanded into other stationary fitness equipment such as treadmills. And meanwhile, as Peloton expands, companies like Mirror were bought out last year by well-established names in the fitness industry like Lululemon, who are outside of the home fitness space and were looking to take a piece of this pandemic-induced phenomena.

As fitness gyms and studios are being forced to close again in 2021 due to coronavirus, we expect to continue to see companies bringing all aspects of the gym to your homes in a compact way.

Virtual reality becomes real

If you’re not big on workouts but are a fan of videogames, the big gaming companies have found a way to get you fit as well. Virtual reality workouts have become a thing, with games such as Pistol Whip making you sweat as you imagine yourself as a star in an action movie, or Holopoint where you and your sword (stick? lance?) fight the bad guys. Either way, what a fun way to burn off thousands of calories.

There are, of course, more straightforward fitness games where the objective to get fit is in the objective itself. Take Supernatural, for example, where you can opt for 1-on-1 coaching for a more personalized fitness alternative to personal training at the gym.

Despite growing significantly in 2020, virtual reality platforms are barely scratching the surface of the fitness world, whether they intend to or not, and we’ll see more of these cross-synergies in the coming years.

why it matters
As countries get ready to roll out vaccines in a bid to get back to normality in the next few months, it will take some time for enough of the population to be vaccinated to a degree that would really suppress the pandemic. Until then, we expect people to want to stay safe in their homes as opposed to risk catching COVID-19 at the gym, despite how badly they may want to bash around some barbells. And so, new habits will surely sink in, which will perhaps make home fitness a common standard of healthy living. A Gympass survey shows that digital wellness will endure, with almost 83% of Americans declaring that they are willing to work out virtually post-pandemic. And so, enablers of the digitization of fitness will be expected to flourish in 2021. Watch out for up-and-coming influencers who can take advantage of market niches (has anyone spotted the Arabic Joe Wicks yet?), an influx of home fitness equipment companies merging with fitness content, and new VR-enabled experiences in the coming year.