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  • Quynh Nguyen

Three Ways COVID has Changed How Consumers Exercise

Like schools and offices, gyms have also moved into homes. The APAC home gym equipment market is expected to reach close to $12 billion by 2025. Not immune to the digital transformation, the fitness industry was also hit hard by the pandemic. As the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions led to the closure of gyms and health clubs, consumers opted for workouts at home, which led the demand for fitness devices and a rise in digital alternatives.


New consumer values have also emerged from the pandemic: a renewed focus on holistic wellness, community, and inclusivity.


1. Holistic Wellness Became the Priority


51% of consumers indicate they are concerned about being less active or gaining weight during the pandemic. They are now integrating healthier habits into their daily routines.


On Pinterest, searches for health-and-wellness-related topics are on the rise, which include:

  • Stress relief activities (up 4.7x)

  • Productive morning routine (up 6x)

  • Exercise routine at home (up 12x)

  • Self care night routine (up 7x)

  • Gratitude journal prompts (up 8x)

  • Mindfulness activities for kids (up 3x)

  • Kids workout routine (+73%)

The Rise of the "Lunchtime Workout"

For the first time ever, 12 p.m. is the most popular time to work out during the week. Lunchtime workouts have seen a 67% increase in popularity. This shift can largely be attributed to a rise in remote work — and the ease of no-shower required virtual meetings. Even as people have returned to studios, the 12 p.m. weekday time slot for in-person classes is more popular now than it was before lockdowns.


Plant-Based Protein Products

This doesn’t just apply to fitness and exercise; other areas of health have also seen a dramatic rise in attention. 18% of U.S. consumers bought their first plant-based protein products during the pandemic. And almost all of them — 92% — say they will continue buying these products.


2. Consumers Flocked to Digital Fitness Options


When the first lockdowns hit, it was almost impossible to get your hands on weights and bicycles. As consumers turned to their homes and outdoor spaces for their exercise, they also looked to their devices. Fitness apps, wearable devices, and digital machines grew the repertoire of at-home fitness options, which was evident by the success that the industry was having.


In the first quarter of 2020, sales for Peloton increased by 66% while subscribers to the Peloton app increased by 94%. Fitness app downloads increased by 47% year-over-year in the second quarter of 2020, reaching a total of 656 million health and fitness apps downloaded during the period. The top growing app was Strava, which Sensor Tower found had a "particularly sharp rise" with a record 3.4 million users in May, an uptick of 179.2% from January 2020.


Emarketer forecast the number of US smartphone users using health and fitness apps will increase by 27.2% this year, from 68.7 million in 2019 to 87.4 million. Although this figure may slightly decrease next year, the rapid adoption of telehealth services and health/fitness apps during the pandemic may leave a lasting impact—we anticipate the number of health and fitness app users will stay above 84 million through 2022.


Another benefit of the digital transformation in the fitness industry is the ability to still create a sense of community between class-goers. Digital workouts will remain popular because of their convenience, but that doesn’t mean in-person classes are obsolete - 92% of professionals hope to return to fitness studios and gyms in 2021, with 40% planning to return exclusively to in-studio workouts when they feel safe to do so. For now, digital classes serve as an alternative to in-person classes.


3. Athleisure Became an Everyday Uniform


Athleisure apparel (comfy at-home wear) was a top holiday gift item in December 2020, marking a pretty significant trend for 2021: people will still be at home looking to make the best of their at-home daily lives. The rise in the number of health conscious consumers is one of the key factors driving the growth of the global athleisure market. Coresight Research predicts athleisure items will continue to swipe closet share from traditional brands, growing around 6.5% annually through 2023.

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