Although still uncertain, this time last year had many in the fitness industry optimistic that the country had turned a corner after the long lockdown period during 2020, in which operators, facilities and professionals pivoted to virtual and outdoor solutions.
But January 6th 2021 saw us go into another national lockdown where indoor facilities were closed until mid May. Since May we’ve seen facilities re-open, but many closed for good.
The industry has changed for good due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and we predict 2022 will see many of the stop-gap solutions created in 2020 and 2021 becoming part of the norm for the industry.
Below we’ve outlined our 5 predictions for the UK fitness industry in 2022, from hybrid membership options, smarter home and wearable technologies, to fitness activities becoming the place where we socialise now working from home is here to stay.
Virtual offerings are now expected
Fitness facilities and operators pivoted to virtual solutions during 2020 and 2021. Whilst they may have started off as make-shift, the virtual training experiences available now are far more advanced and personalised. It feels like every fitness facility and professional now offers some form of virtual experience for clients.
We predict hybrid memberships and experiences will become the norm from 2022. We predict this year will see clients and members expect to have options of either attending a facility in person, or dialing in to live virtual classes or accessing on-demand classes. We can see big operators like Total Fitness and David Lloyd as well as boutique chains such as Trib3 offering these already.
Similarly to fitness facilities, we predict personal training clients will also be looking to get more value from their trainers. In recent years, personal training has already moved away from the traditional “pay per session” model to offering clients a more holistic training experience, and we predict clients will be expecting further online options. This is a great opportunity for PTs to potentially increase their client pool as they can offer online-only clients to boost their income.
Having this flexibility for members and clients will be key during different parts of 2022 for operators and trainers, as confidence in attending in-person training fluctuates amid the changing landscape of Covid cases.
Home gyms to become smarter
Now people have got a taste for working out on their own at home with the equipment they’ve bought, we predict they’re going to step it up in 2022 and look to make their home workout experience smarter.
The Peloton Bike was the dominant piece of kit from the pandemic, and more brands looking to create an amazing at-home workout experience will continue to grow. We think brands like Mirror and Hydrow will become more common among those looking to create an experience at home, whilst those looking to take their training more seriously will be looking at the latest pieces of kit such as the Atom from Wattbike.
We think we’ll also see virtual memberships to fitness facilities and trainers increase as home-gym owners want a more personalised training programme to follow while training at home.
Outdoor fitness will continue to be popular
We’ve had a taste for fresh air and now we want more. One thing the last couple of years has certainly done is tempt more of us to work out outside, through walking, hiking or attending outdoor fitness classes.
Even though the weather can be a dampener in the UK, we predict training outdoors in some form is here to stay and people will be making it a priority to get outdoors as part of their weekly routines. Similarly to our first point on hybrid offerings from facilities, we predict individuals will want a hybrid approach to training, where within a week they may attend a number of different experiences, such as strength training in a commercial gym, a weekend hike, and then a boutique fitness class.
As ever, the warmer months will see another boom for outdoor fitness facilities, where members can catch some vital Vit D as well as boost their endorphins. In recent years we’ve seen facilities add outdoor training facilities for members like Thrive Gym, and outdoor specialist facilities like Farmer Strong evolve.
Improving our health is high on the agenda
One thing that can’t be argued against, is how important our health is and how much we value it after these last few years. We’ve always known eating better and exercising improves our physical and mental health, and as the nation attempts to leave Covid in the rearview mirror we’ll see more public campaigns around becoming more active.
Especially as a recent study in 2021 from Sport England notes physical activity levels are falling since the pandemic - “Compared to 12 months earlier, there were 700,000 (-1.9%) fewer active adults and 1 million (+2%) more inactive adults between mid-May 2020 and mid-May 2021.” (Sport England, 2021).
Physical activity will play a huge role in helping those who have suffered badly with Covid, especially those with long-covid. Be sure to see more of the buzz phrases in 2022, such as movement is medicine and health is wealth!
Fitness classes and studios to become even more social
In recent years, community based fitness concepts have risen to become one of the preferred facility choices of members. This was partly due to the community feel, where members would attend classes together, go on socials and really get to know the facility and its trainers. We think 2022 will see this continue to rise and more operators try to create a social experience for their members.
The office workplace has potentially changed forever. Less of us are in big groups in the office, with those who can work from home, continuing to do so even if they would rather be in the office. This means those social interactions between colleagues, the trips to the coffee shop and interactions between other parts of the public have all gone. We’re glued to our computers and video conferencing all day long.
Although we feel virtual offerings will continue to expand, we definitely feel that many of us will also long for more in-person fitness interactions. We now leave our homes specifically for experiences and interactions - not just to drive to the gym and sit on resistance machines without talking to anyone for an hour.
We predict those fostering a social experience will keep and grow new members throughout 2022.
Honourable mentions - wearable tech and strength training
As ever, wearable tech will continue to boom, with our data being even more heavily tracked and analysed. We think we’ll continue to see the ever present importance of strength training, as personal trainers continue to promote the benefits.