2020 U.S. Fitness Market and Industry Insights Going Into 2021

The fitness market faced many challenges in 2020 both globally and nationally (here in the U.S.). Methods for reducing the effect of COVID across different countries have had a huge impact on the market in each country.

Health and fitness businesses play an integral role in reducing health conditions worldwide. The market revolves around keeping people well both physically and mentally. With rising numbers in health conditions, now is one of the most important times for this industry to grow.

Something to consider before getting into the overall predictions for the industry is that, in the United States, we are still in limbo of another shutdown. The possible 6-week shutdown means that all owners of health and fitness clubs/businesses must be able to stay connected with their members and clients.

Therefore, spending for these businesses might be shifted in the direction of virtual means for connecting with their clients. Although, according to IHRSA, 88% of people who returned to their gym are confident that the gym has implemented necessary precautions and feel safe attending the gym.

90% of the fitness market share in North America is attributed to the U.S., although the U.S. is one of the countries that is seeing the slowest bounce back from Covid.

Despite the 2020 setbacks, however, expect growth.

Fitness Market in the U.S.

What is the fitness market worth?

Health clubs and gyms in the United States are worth $32.5 billion this year whereas in 2019 it was worth $37.5 billion. Boutique fitness studios made up an estimated 40% of the market share in 2017. This is up 20% from the IHRSA estimate of 21% in 2014.

In 2019, there were 107,724 registered health clubs and gyms. However, that number was reduced to 105,846 this year in 2020.

Concerning Covid, this might not be the best time for health clubs and gyms. However, this is a good time for companies specializing in-home workouts and online personal training. Health clubs have an average growth rate of -0.5% in the last five years.

In 2020, Health and fitness clubs and gyms experienced a -13.2% growth rate.

The personal training industry is worth an estimated $10 billion with an overall growth rate of 2.4%.

The Health Status of Americans

The prevalence of obesity has risen 30.5% since 2000 as of 2018. According to the CDC, 42.4% of Americans were obese as of 2018. With that being said, people who struggle with obesity are at much higher risk for contracting COVID and experiencing severe symptoms.

The US needs the health and fitness industry now more than ever. People are becoming much more conscious of their health as a result of the pandemic. On top of that, rates of mental health disorders are skyrocketing with depressive disorder becoming four times more prevalent than this time last year (2019). Rates of suicidal thoughts are up to 10.7% as opposed to the 4.3% 12 months before.

The figure describes the percentages of U.S. adults struggling with mental health or substance use during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These numbers for mental health conditions and obesity are increasing at dreadful rates.

This is where the fitness industry exemplifies its overall importance to our society. Although we have seen a lack of growth in the health and fitness club market, that means that other markets within the umbrella are set to grow. New, better ways of accessing fitness are on the rise.

Who is attending gyms?

Millennials make up the largest population of gym-goers worldwide. Over 80% of people worldwide visiting health and fitness clubs are millennials. Go ahead and pause here and check your Instagram insights and other insights you gather from your customers. I can guarantee that your most engaged age range is from 25- 45 years old. Les Mills also guarantees that age range.

18-25 year olds are the most likely to attend boutique studios.

25% of the 41 million health club members in the US are over the age of 55.

Specialized training for older adults has been on the rise for the last couple of years. Seeing as they are the most affected by health conditions, it’s important to continue considering them and guiding them to become fit. So don’t leave them out of your marketing tactics!

Equipment Production and Sales

The home fitness industry is booming right now. For people who already had a fitness routine, they found no qualms in moving from the gym to home. In fact, Peleton saw a 66% increase in sales from last year because of people staying motivated to exercise at home.

Fitness equipment sales have grown by 170%. As China shut down in response to COVID, the production of certain equipment like kettlebells was disrupted. Companies like Rogue Fitness are backlogged and having trouble keeping up.

Home fitness Equipment Global Market Value - Fitness Market Insights
Estimated home gym equipment global market value is $8.62 billion by 2023.

65% of fitness equipment is made in China.

This means that the demand for home workout equipment and resources is very high and will most likely maintain this way. Actually, the U.S. saw a shortage of kettlebells. Kettlebells, toilet paper, coins oh my! We had some pretty strange shortages this year, including a shortage of health club visitors.

Gym Closures

Many gyms had to close permanently as a result of COVID measures. 24 Hour Fitness is an example of a box gym chain that had to close 135 locations to cut costs after suspending memberships. They also, unfortunately, had to file for bankruptcy. Gold’s Gym is another company that filed for bankruptcy.

However, since the low point for all health clubs, gyms, and studios in April/May, there has been a steady increase in revenue and member check-ins. The market is slowly steadying out month to month. However, we are still a few months away from reaching the 2019 baseline. That is if we do not have another mandatory closure of fitness businesses.

Virtual Fitness

Virtual fitness was already in the works in the last couple of years, but the need to reach customers in their homes throttled the virtual fitness market into rapid growth.

According to GloFox’s COVID industry report, the use of online classes accounts for 5% to 10% of fitness activity in countries that are still under some restrictions. The activity of in-person classes is down 91% from pre-COVID rates.

Global Market Insights suggests that the value of this industry will reach over $30 billion in 2026.

Allied Market Research, however, suggests that the growth will land the virtual/online fitness market value at around $59 billion.

Regardless of the number difference, the online coaching and training market is bound for growth. This year has been extremely transformative for all fitness professionals and business owners in their need on reaching clients virtually.

The market for fitness apps like ours is projected to grow by 1.68 billion over the next four years.

Where is the fitness market succeeding overall?

Personal training and coaching are still growing and in tandem with the rise in virtual fitness. Right now, trainers and coaches are succeeding with a hybrid business model. This means that they can maintain relationships with clients through virtual means as well as traditional in-person sessions.

Keeping it personal by meeting with clients face to face is something that will never become unimportant. Personal training revolves around accountability and support, and that’s not something that can be completely bridged by digital tools. Although, digital tools used to maintain that communication proves an invaluable supplement.

Home fitness is booming with a massive increase in sales of home gym equipment. This is a great time to invest in home fitness as the demand is high and is not likely to change for a long period of time. Many people are still purchasing home equipment. The supply is not currently meeting the needs of the population, though, so until it levels out, business is booming.

What are the growing trends to look out for?

A well-known trend for fitness businesses is the rise of boutique studios. Studios show a higher rate of client attrition because of their poignant audience target, Millennials. This is proof that honing in on your target audience will benefit your business tremendously.

Though, studios were not immune to the effects of the pandemic. During the pandemic, if studios only offer classes, then they will not be able to break even under 50% attendance. This suggests that reaching clients through apps like FitSW is the solution to staying afloat. When the world completely reopens, studios will have this function to expand their business beyond the brick and mortar.

One of the keys to success for boutiques is their design. Consumers are becoming increasingly more aware of aesthetics. Aesthetics and design have a great deal of power when it comes to how people feel and react to a space. Therefore, when creating a new boutique, or even a gym, the design must adhere to the target audience and reflect your business’s values.

Automation

Automation is a growing trend in just about every industry, but the fitness businesses are seeing massive changes when it comes to automation. Traditionally, reaching clients at their needs required multi forms of communication, program creation, and marketing.

Automate Your Fitness Business Infographic - Fitness Market Analysis

Now, many apps and software reduce the amount of places information is stored and shared. This increases efficiency tremendously for businesses to help them grow their client base and form better relationships with their clients.

Automation aids in conversions as well with easier methods of making purchases and billing cycles. Subscription models for training services are even becoming more popular because of their effectiveness in client retention.

Gamification

Fitness is all about setting and reaching goals for your physical and mental state. Gamification is becoming more and more popular for fitness businesses and their clients. This strategy increases engagement and attention by rewarding clients for reaching their fitness goals.

Clients should have positive experiences to share when working with your business. Gamification increases the chances of generating more of these experiences for them to share and stay motivated.

Competition is an important factor in gamification and often is much more encouragement for people to meet their goals than their own needs. It is also a way for people to hone in on their progress. This progress is helpful data for trainers or gym owners to keep track of aside from general metrics.

An example of successful implementation of gamification is Nike+ Run Club. This app continuously updates challenges for the user as it tracks their physical and mental progress over time. It’s an endless method for preventing the user from plateauing or becoming bored with their goals.

Accessibility

Accessibility is something that COVID has helped to shed a bright light on in the fitness industry. Many people have faced issues with having the confidence to walk into a gym. This can be a result of their weight, gender, race, disability, or knowledge of what to do once there.

It’s not easy to put yourself out there by any means! Getting started at a health club, gym or studio is half the battle. Therefore, the virtual shift in fitness has helped people who need to be a step removed from the gym setting to start.

Gym attendance is expected to rise past pre-covid levels as we have seen happen in the U.K., Australia, Ireland, and Hong Kong. These countries, after reopening from their initial shutdown, have seen an increase in both in-person attendance and online class attendance.

The U.S. has not seen the same effect as we have stayed in a limbo of restrictions since June. However, this is an ideal time for clubs, gyms, and studios in the U.S. to look toward reaching people virtually and expanding their client base that way.

96% of people who tried a virtual class from a health club, gym, or studio said they would be likely to visit the gym when it reopens.

Experiences for Older Adults

Fitness is something everyone should include in their lives. Aging adults are no exception to this. Therefore it’s becoming increasingly more important to provide experiences for generations older than Gen X. If you are in your 60s, then you probably do not want to participate in a class full of 20 and 30year olds. It’s just plain uncomfortable for them and most likely not the level of exercise they should be doing.

Therefore, holding classes for aging adults and seniors is becoming increasingly more popular. This expands your client base and also benefits an age group that is much more prone to negative health conditions.

Buying into the market

Gyms were rapidly moving into mall spaces pre-covid, but that has come to a bit of a halt as more and more gyms are filing for bankruptcy. This means that there will be more opportunity for purchasing a franchise in the next couple of years as many locations have needed to close or never had the chance to fully open.

Boutique studio owners suffered from over-saturation in the market. 2019 marked 10 years of rapid growth. In fact, boutique studios grew a whopping 121% in the last four years. These types of studios rely on virality and trendiness, so it was becoming increasingly difficult to stay ahead of the competition.

Although, now that many have had to shut their doors, there will be more room in the market in the future.

General Market Segments Growing in Opportunity

  • Home Fitness Equipment
  • Fitness Apps for:
    • Client management
    • Client tracking
    • Virtual classes and sessions
    • Automation
  • Fitness tracking technology

With all of the changes the world has faced, we continue adapting and finding new avenues of success. The overall fitness market is set for growth. We have just been pushed to become much more creative with how we facilitate that growth. This is quite an exciting time for technological innovation in this field and is a reflection of the direction we are heading as a society.

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