As former Congressman and Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel once said, “Never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that is that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
Health and exercise professionals have applied this mindset and responded to mandated facility closures by finding new ways to deliver workout solutions via video streaming services as well as making use of outdoor spaces that allow for proper social distancing. The question becomes: Are these adaptations merely a stopgap solution for dealing with the pandemic or will they become a part of the fitness landscape for the foreseeable future? And importantly: How will these changes affect the ability of health and exercise professionals to earn a living in the coming year?
While it is not possible to predict the future with any certainty, this attempt to see how we’ll be doing fitness in the coming year is based on conversations with colleagues who work for equipment manufacturers, have positions in health club operations or own fitness studios, both in the United States and all over the world. To help you plan for your business in the coming year, each prediction is also accompanied by what it means for health and exercise professionals and how it might affect your ability to conduct your business in the coming year.
- Streaming services that deliver workouts to any screen connected to the internet have become extremely popular and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The variety of workouts combined with the chat features that allow participants to engage with the instructors and each other really does create the studio experience from the comfort of home. According to Jessica Pohl Sinnarajah, a cycling instructor in Buffalo, N.Y., “The social online presence created by the streaming platforms help create a feeling of community, even while you’re working out alone. There is a sense of accomplishment when posting about workout achieving that also helps to build accountability to others who work out on the platform.” In 2021, class size restrictions will lead many facilities to offer hybrid services of streaming workouts directly from their studios. Thanks to technology, many facilities will create their own streaming services that will allow some members to participate live in the studio while others will be sweating from home. Fitness facilities that have not already done so will need to identify virtual solutions to deliver group workouts, which can help ensure retention of existing members while providing new opportunities to engage with coaches from the facility.
- Group fitness classes are going green. Governments have attempted to limit the spread of the virus through shelter-in-place orders and by restricting business operations; in many locations, fitness facilities are allowed to operate but only by offering outdoor workouts. Health clubs and studios in warm-weather locations such as Southern California, Arizona and Florida have responded by moving equipment and classes outdoors. Partly in response to the business closures that restrict popular leisure activities such as going to the movies or watching professional sports, many people are rediscovering the benefits of accessible activities such as walking and are making use of outdoor recreation spaces such as parks and hiking trails. In addition, activities such as cycling, roller skating and inline skating are seeing a resurgence in popularity. “Outdoor classes that include the whole family have become a popular option in for our members, says Christy Giroux, a personal trainer in Gaithersburg, Md., and co-owner of Prime Fitness. “In addition, we have seen many of our neighbors at our local parks because you can be active while remaining socially distant.” People seeking new ways to be active outdoors creates new opportunities for health and exercise professionals to help clients get in shape so they can enjoy those activities to the fullest extent possible.
- In response to business closures and restrictions on large groups, many consumers have been buying up all available fitness equipment to stock up their garage gyms. It’s one thing to buy exercise equipment for the home, it’s another to learn how to use it correctly. The explosive popularity of garage gyms should create a number of new opportunities for health and exercise professionals who specialize in in-home workouts to deliver their services to a whole new clientele.
- As mentioned above, due to a variety of reasons, including evidence suggesting a link between obesity and COVID-19 complications, it appears as if many individuals have become more physically active and have started to exercise for the purpose of improving health. According to the results of a United Kingdom-based study, the pandemic may be initiating a new interest in physical activity and exercise among older adults who are at greater risk of complications from the virus. As this recent CERTIFIED article on exercise and the immune system points out, it’s well established that regular exercise combined with other healthy lifestyle habits can strengthen the immune system. As new fitness consumers enter the market, it will create new opportunities for health and exercise professionals to design exercise programs to reduce risk factors and improve overall health.
- On that note, in 2021 social media will continue to be the primary way that many individuals search for and consume fitness information. As more consumers enter the fitness market, many turn to popular social media platforms to look for guidance on how to start an exercise program. Health and exercise professionals that have a strong social media presence and know how to leverage platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or TikTok to engage potential clients will have a distinct advantage for attracting this new business. If you’re a health and exercise professional who wants to develop a business that can deliver online workouts, now is the time to master the power of social media.