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Top Fitness Trends: 2021 Mindbody Wellness Index

2021’s Top Fitness Trends and What They Mean for Your Fitness Business

By Lauren McAlister

When we surveyed almost 20,000 Americans for our 2021 Wellness Index, something became evident from the start: people’s relationship to wellness amid the COVID-19 pandemic changed in unprecedented ways. While 78% of those surveyed noted that wellness, including each of the seven dimensions, is more important than ever, their interaction with fitness specifically, saw an undeniable shift.

As we take what we learned from these pandemic habits, we deliver to you the top 2021 fitness trends—and what they mean for the fitness industry in the new year.

COVID-19 developed long-lasting hybrid routines

With lockdowns and forced closures of studios and gyms across the country, the fitness industry offered, and consumers adopted, virtual fitness quickly. Forty percent of consumers now say they use pre-recorded fitness videos as compared to just 27% pre-COVID. Similarly, 37% of Americans have gone all in on live stream fitness as compared to just 12% who did so pre-COVID.

The pandemic also encouraged consumers to try new forms of exercise. Perhaps due to increasingly available online classes or the extra comfort of home to try something new—29% of Americans started a new workout or fitness class they hadn’t tried prior to COVID.

More than half of fitness lovers do both in-person and virtual workouts

What that means for fitness businesses: Virtual is here to stay. After all, 53% of exercisers have adopted a hybrid routine, including in-person workouts at a studio or gym and virtual workouts from home. Businesses can help future-proof their businesses by creating a sustainable, long-term business plan for their hybrid offerings.

Adoption of virtual fitness varies by generation

Although 2020 saw a dramatic increase in virtual fitness adoption, not all generations took to the screen equally. Millennials did more live stream and pre-recorded workouts than any other age group and connected home gym equipment was most popular with Older Gen Z. Most notably, Young Boomers (those 55+) were the least likely to take part in live streamed and pre-recorded workouts as well as exercise with connected home gym equipment.  

Virtual fitness appeals to most age groups except 55+

What that means for fitness businesses: Studios and gyms looking to serve a mature clientele with virtual services will likely require a more targeted approach. Offering technology how-tos, reduced class sizes, and accountability groups are a few possible ways to help improve virtual adoption. In many cases, one-on-one or small group virtual training might also be a good fit.

Consumers need an extra dose of motivation...

Unfortunately, the pandemic has had some major impacts on overall mental health and motivation. It’s also negatively affected overall fitness activity. Fifty-two percent of consumers claim COVID-19 has negatively impacted their mental health and when compared to last year’s consumer survey, fitness activity saw an overall decline. The number one reason people say they’re less focused on their health and wellness right now? Lack of motivation.

Top reasons for exercising

Thankfully, consumers are looking to fitness to turn things around. The top three reasons people work out:

  1. I want to control my weight (34%)
  2. I want to feel good (33%)
  3. I want to feel better mentally (31%)

What that means for fitness businesses: Strong focuses on self-care, mental health, and motivation this year are essential. How? From workshops and themed virtual classes to challenges and referral programs, businesses will need to think creatively to get clients back into a fitness and wellness routine and keep them continuously engaged. Here are 34 ways to do just that.

...and a cardio fix

For consumers looking to get their group fitness on, they’re seeking cardio and weight training first. The top forms of group exercise heading into 2021:

  1. Cardio machines
  2. Weight/strength training
  3. Aerobics
  4. Dance fitness
  5. Yoga

What that means for fitness businesses: With three of the top five workouts being cardio-based it seems consumers may be looking to get their heart rates up and endorphins flowing (stress relief, anyone?). 2021 might be the year to incorporate more cardio-focused classes (or at least bursts of it) to the schedule. Another option? Partner with other fitness businesses to provide these options for customers.

Men became more engaged in fitness in almost every way

Men reported exercising significantly more than women, frequent gyms and fitness studios (when they’re open), and participate in virtual workouts more, too. Thirty-five percent of men say they exercise with a personal trainer compared to just 17% of women who do the same.

Why this gender-divide? Women report higher levels of financial stress than men (53% versus 47%) and are more likely to claim gym memberships are too expensive (24% of women versus just 18% of men). Women also report being more intimidated to work out at a studio or gym (13% of women versus just 9% of men).

What that means for fitness businesses: With women prioritizing fitness less than their male counterparts and claiming less satisfaction with their overall health and well-being (just 37% of women are satisfied versus 57% of men), all fitness businesses—from high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and Pilates studios to big-box gyms—have an opportunity to expand their service offerings to better serve female consumers. From shorter, “snackable” workout classes to potentially more affordable, virtual options, studios and gyms can help reinvigorate the female connection to wellness. And if you aren’t capitalizing on getting men into your studio, now’s a good time to start.

“Gymtimidation” is real

Although fitness is increasingly more accessible, there are still a variety of barriers to entry. What prevents Americans from visiting fitness studios or gyms? Thirty-eight percent say they worry about cleanliness/safety, 22% feel a membership is too expensive, and 12% say they feel too intimidated.

"Gymtimidated" consumers want to get in better shape first.

What do consumers say will help them overcome this gymtimidation?

  • Getting in better shape first (56%)
  • Seeing more people like me in gym/studio and promotions (49%)
  • Getting the right fitness attire/sportswear (27%)

What that means for fitness businesses: By offering a robust virtual schedule, which is often less expensive and more accessible for consumers, studios and gyms can overcome the affordability barrier. Similarly, these at-home workouts create a less intimidating environment. Businesses will need to be intentional in their approach—the goal is to help those who may be new to fitness to establish a routine and build confidence. Consider offering classes and workshops catered to beginners or those who are getting back into the swing of things, fitness-wise. It’s also important fitness businesses’ marketing efforts are as inclusive as possible, featuring different ethnicities, ages, and body types.

Although this past year has been full of uncertainty and change, one thing is for sure—fitness continues to play a major role in the lives of consumers and isn’t slowing down any time soon. Armed with data from the Mindbody Wellness Index, fitness businesses can prepare for the year ahead, better understanding the evolving needs of both existing and soon-to-be fitness enthusiasts, alike.

Check out all of our 2021 Wellness Index content:

Blogs:

Lists:

Webinars:

Stay tuned as we continue to dig into the research and release more!

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About the author:

Lauren McAlister

Lauren McAlister

Manager, Marketing Content

Mindbody

Lauren is the co-owner of a fitness studio and a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. Born and raised in California, Lauren has a heart for working out, traveling, and baking paleo(ish) treats for friends and family. She's also passionate about crafting meaningful content for others in the wellness space, which makes her role at Mindbody a perfect fit.

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