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Fitness Trends in 2021 – The Emerging Shifts in Health & Fitness

Amie Parnaby
13/01/2021
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fitness trends 2021

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The past ten months have changed the way many people view fitness and how to achieve it. 2020 saw people stuck at home, without access to regular gym visits, equipment and trainers, so they had to find alternative practises. According to a survey by Verywellfit, in June, less than 50% of the respondents intended returning to their regular gym in the near future. When they followed up in December, less than 15% had any intention of going back to the gym. Consequently, 2021 will see a massive shift in health, wellness, and fitness trends, which health and fitness professionals and businesses will need to accept.  

For gym and fitness centre owners these are awful statistics. What happens to your business when you lose up to 85% of your clientele? For now, we can hope that your marketing campaigns will bring a good number of them back to the fold, but there are no guarantees in the current climate. While many hoped that a vaccine would get most of us back to the “normal way of things”, studies indicate that the vaccine is just a single step on the road back to global recovery.

So let’s look at some of the emerging and developing health and fitness trends that will gain traction and clientele in the coming months.

The Tech Solution Fitness Trends

In 2020, tech played a massive part in maintaining some semblance of fitness access. In 2021, tech is set to cement its position as a major player in health and exercise.

wearable fitness trends

Online fitness classes and one-to-one are significant first steps, but now people expect more from their online fitness providers. Improvements in streaming and interaction will be next on the list of client demands. While we appreciate the live streaming that many fitness coaches and trainers put together (at relatively short notice) to keep us active, it has been a learning curve in determining what we genuinely need from online class streaming. We want more action, less talk.

However, tech solutions will progress and develop on remote fitness solutions. Big-tech wearable items are becoming smarter and more integrated with new software technologies. Many people have tried the wearable pedometer to get their 10,000 steps in and the fitness tracker that records heart rate, optimum calorie burning range, and even sleep patterns. However, new advances are breaking through, with hands-free clothing and contactless gear for posture, and form correction. As the tech develops further, it will integrate with more fitness software, and probably even your favourite apps.

Another benefit to the wearable tech is that in some cases, it can be used to indicate the early signs of flu-like illnesses, as shown by a small study on Oura ring wearers

Tech is making considerable waves in fitness, and fitness businesses that can accommodate personal wearable tech will reap the rewards.

Fitness & Wellness for Health

Health will be the primary goal of the fitness business. Aesthetics aren’t the goal. Indications worldwide have shown that people with underlying health problems are the most susceptible to complications from COVID-19. Some specifically fitness-related ones are obesity, diabetes (type 2) and cardiovascular health.

Exercise is medicine fitness trends

Exercise as preventative medicine has always been the best course of action, but 2020 has enforced the message abruptly. Fitness professionals who can include a holistic approach to health and exercise have a better chance of keeping and engaging more clients. 

Beyond looking after our bodies, we’re also bringing healthy alternatives into the home. Germ-killing UV lighting has disinfection properties and is more in-tune with our circadian rhythms. Air and water filtration, wellness rooms, the value of outdoor space; they’re all aspects of our homes that have become significantly more important since we’ve spent so much more time there.

Mental health has also become more important to all of us. Combining mental health with health and fitness has become much more prevalent because the effect of 2020 on emotional and mental wellness has been catastrophic. 2021 will cement a more holistic approach to mental health and fitness – not least because combining both is an exercise in efficiency in our busy lives.

minfdfulness and mental health fitness trends

Fitness Trends In Methodology

How people are getting and staying fit is heavily dependent on the access they have. Do they have the ability to go outdoors or have a garden? Do they have any exercise equipment, or do they have internet access? These are all questions that have impacted people’s ability to exercise and will continue to affect fitness trends in 2021.

Simplicity has become the necessary byword for fitness access while dealing with reduced gym access. Lack of space at home has led to people acquiring the best option for staying fit while also saving space. The widespread shortage of kettlebells was very telling at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. Kettlebell workouts are everywhere. Working out your whole body with a set of exercises and ONE piece of equipment is too good to pass up. A kettlebell fits easily in a small space and doesn’t break the bank. Likewise, bodyweight exercises are also significantly effective, especially when combined with functional fitness. Simple, cheap, and readily accessible in the home, garden, or even your balcony.

The businesses making money from these relatively simple fitness approaches are those teaching people HOW to use, kettlebells and their body weight to stay fit and healthy.

Online fitness classes and video streaming to individuals have seen a significant increase in popularity throughout 2020. However, even with significant changes in 2021, that fitness trend will continue. The better provision of a personalised experience and one-to-one coaching online has made the online fitness trend much more attractive.

Changing Gym and Fitness Centre Trends

The huge fitness centres and gyms in city centres and near business districts might well be facing an uncertain future. However, with some diversification, they can still hold on to a significant number of clients. 

Open Air Gym

The newly found appreciation of fresh air and not exercising in a room full of people sweating and breathing heavily has prompted some gyms to use any outdoor space available to them. With some creative weather-proofing in temperate regions, the open-air gym is becoming a thing. The outdoor gym is most noticeably taking hold in warmer climes, where bad weather is rarely a problem.

Gyms on the Move

Until recently, business districts and areas with many office buildings have been the best location to catch pre-work, post-work, and lunchtime exercisers. However, 2020 has changed the dynamic. The necessity of remote working has proven that it can and does work, and so in the future, the office might not be the best location for a large capacity gym.

Gyms will start to move, and not all of them will move to premises the same size. Down-sizing to small boutique gyms and catering to smaller, more specialised fitness requirements on the high street could well be the way that gyms weather the storm of membership losses. 

Diversification

The major fitness centres, with customised premises, will need to diversify. They will need to attract more than just subscription paying members. As a comprehensive fitness centre, your health and fitness service needs to be genuinely comprehensive. It’s not just about fitness and exercise; it’s the whole health, wellness and fitness package. Holistic health isn’t just “new-age” nonsense; it literally means treating the whole person, not just the little bits that are bothering them.

Some things that fitness centres might want to include in their offerings are body scanners, nutritionists, personal trainers, activewear, consultations, mindfulness and meditation, and even counselling. Specialised training areas could also benefit the larger fitness centre; with women-only safe spaces, COVID-19 recover programs, and even partner with medical facilities for physio and illness recovery. It will have to be more about whole-person health to justify membership costs.

2020 taught people that exercise and fitness are achievable (and maintainable) without spending a lot on equipment and memberships. A membership subscription must include more than just access to exercise machines and weights.

Social & Political Fitness

Community fitness will become a political stance. Since the overall community health makes specific groups more prone to the worst effects of COVID-19, making the population stronger through a healthier lifestyle and fitness makes sense. There will be a strong political element to this because so many people have been stripped of their disposable income through reduced wages, job losses, and business collapses.

Thankfully, community spirit has prevailed. Fitness communities have stuck together, even if it’s just virtually through online media. As evidenced by the lovely people who did PE for kids during a lockdown, and those communities that moved their fitness classes online – even making some of them free so more people could join in – community spirit is alive and well.

Social conscience, in the form of looking after the health and fitness of our broader community, and environmental factors, such as carbon emissions and sustainability, play a part in our decision-making. Adidas makes work out gear from recycled polyester, and Patagonia has been eco-conscious since its beginnings in 1973. These things are more important to us in 2021 when there are significant indicators that our declining environment could contribute to more and worse global pandemic-level infections.

The client is far savvier in 2021; we’ve done tonnes of research. No one wants to support a company or business with dubious social, economic or environmental policies. In the interests of clarity, the business that combines providing an excellent service with sound social practises and a great price will come out the winner. 

Fitness Trends 2021 – A Summary

So what are the fitness trends that might affect your business in 2021?

Wearable tech inclusion will fuel more remote access to health and fitness programs. Integrating the wearable tech data to optimise your service will be a massive boost to your clientele.

Online class and training streaming will improve in complexity, service and interaction.

Holistic health and promoting overall health and wellness over aesthetics will be a crucial fitness trend. Including mental health and wellness to physical fitness programs will bring mind and body together for whole-person health. What bodies look like is less important than how well they function. Personalising health and fitness journeys to individuals will be far more sustainable, and more lucrative in the long term.

Minimalist approaches to exercise, using few or no props and equipment, are more economically friendly to 2021’s money-conscious trainees. It’s also cheaper for trainers to use this and make the most of their expertise. There’s no need for the truck-load of expensive gear.

Gyms are facing massive losses to their baseline memberships. Without diversification, down-sizing, or specialisation, some gym businesses could see significant detrimental effects in 2021. At least in 2020, you know that people were forced to stay home. In 2021, many people will choose to stay out of the gym.

The open-air is your friend and mine. Rather than recycled A/C, the local park’s clean air or a garden is far more enticing. Additionally, a public park or common land costs nothing for exercise with no equipment.

Social, economic, and environmental practices will influence your clients like never before.  

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