No doubt about it, 2020 has been pretty horrendous for the business side of the health and fitness industry.
Trainers, instructors, gyms and studios have shifted and pivoted admirably, however, this is an industry that is built upon personal interactions. Whilst those were limited, of course businesses suffered. However, one thing we definitely did see, was a genuine, real and organic attention shift to the value regular exercise has on overall wellbeing – when we as a population had very little control over what was happening in the world around us – one thing we could still do was move, and we did.
Now that the big re opening is almost upon us, Gymdependence day as some have called it, we as an industry are poised for the long awaited comeback and are anticipating a welcome upswing in business as people return to exercising in places other than their living room! But what will the industry look like in the post lockdown era ?
I had originally written post COVID, but of course we’re not post COVID, and I think that is they key part to my thoughts on where the industry will be leaning.
What is very clear is that a vaccination program is quite some way off, and most experts are telling us not to expect one before mid-late 2021 at the earliest. Experience has shown us during the worst parts of this pandemic is that the biggest risk factors influencing mortality rate and severity of infection were obesity and poor respiratory fitness. In other words things that we as a population have a direct influence on.
In short, our health and fitness is our number one defence against COVID 19
The health and fitness industry has boomed over the last 5 years, partly fuelled of course by social media, but whereas going to the gym previously was something to fit in before, after or around non negotiable life commitments – it evolved into a non negotiable life commitment. Gym kit became activewear and it became cool, boutique studios opened in every fashionable part of every town with their favourite instructors becoming mini celebrities, and the post workout smoothie selfie became as important as the workout itself.
I think that the post lockdown fitness landscape will look very different. Health has never been so prominent in our conversations, in the media, and in our psyche.
I feel that our industry in the post lockdown era will be expected to take a lead, but also will be expected to produce results. I think that there will be less attention paid to which class or studio is currently on trend, and more to what does each person have to do to make some tangible improvements to their health, fitness, and their resilience to illness. I am expecting health and fitness to move up everyones priorities and the emphasis to be on the ‘health’ part of that phrase.
There appears to be a significant education piece emerging from central government about the correlation between BMI*, respiratory fitness, and the severity of COVID infection.
*I know that those of us in the health and fitness world know that BMI isn’t a particularly useful metric, as a muscular lean individual will classify as ‘overweight’ (I myself classify as dangerously obese using that scale), however, I think we can comfortably say that the population to whom that applies are probably not the population to which that education message is intended to be conveyed.
As this education message gets louder and clearer over the coming weeks, it is natural to assume that our gym going population will be wanting to know that the choices they are making, and being advised to take, are ones that are going to lead them towards measurable changes in these figures. In other words:
Are they giving themselves the best possible chance of reducing the severity of illness should they be unfortunate enough to contract it?
In my opinion we will definitely see the eagerly anticipated bounce back for our beloved industry, but it may well be one with a more discerning and better educated customer. I suppose I could sum up my thoughts on how the post lockdown fitness industry will look in four words: Less fads, more facts.