New Fitness Era: As gyms reopen in the UK, fitness market seeks ways to reinvent itself
Over the weekend, gyms and sports facilities were given the go-ahead for opening, following safety, hygiene and distancing measures. Will we go back to the old normal or enter a new era of fitness?
While the re-opening is good news, many gyms face the challenge of getting people back in while finding innovative ways to keep afloat. Not everyone is ready to take the risk.
The UK fitness industry was, before the lockdowns starters, one of the most profitable in Europe, according to the FT, with revenues of almost $880,000 per venue. The market had a value of £5.5bn, and was expanding. The industry body UKActive has around 3,500 member firms.
When the lockdowns started in March, many fitness venues started “haemorrhaging money,” as the costs of expensive rents and equipment maintenance could not be balanced with membership fees (FT). Indeed many gyms had to freeze memberships to avoid mass cancellations, and still are susceptible to losing many customers. The Gym Group, one of the leading fitness chains in the country with more than 170 clubs, said that it had lost a fifth of its 870,000 members.
According to CIL Management Consultants in an interview with the FT, UK gym revenues could slump by 30 per cent in 2020, with a slow recovery that could take another 12–18 months.
However, if on the one hand, gyms and clubs are facing tough challenges, the market for home workout equipment and online training sessions has exploded. Home gym equipment sales saw a massive increase of 5813% since the lockdowns started, says research by price comparison site Idealo. The most popular equipment sold has been steppers, weight benches and exercise bikes.
The share price of Peloton, the high-tech-at-home bikes company listed on Nasdaq, has doubled to $61 since the start of 2020.
British fitness coach and YouTuber Joe Wicks hit record highs during lockdown with almost one million people tuning in for his live 9am workout classes.
The high demand for home workout alternatives has shown that people have a desire to keep fit, wherever their workout routine may be. Executives in some fitness companies have tapped into this opportunity: The Gym Group recently announced a partnership and a £1m investment in the fitness app Fiit. “You look at other sectors and the ability to consume products at home as well as out of home, whether it’s delivery from restaurants or Netflix [and] for us it seemed to be a natural thing for health and fitness,” said Richard Darwin, chief executive.
Blok, a London-based boutique yoga and fitness centre decided to retain and grow their customer base with the launch of Bloktv, a remote service offering live and on-demand Strength, Yoga, Boxing, Barre, Pilates, Dance, High Intensity and Movement classes. The initiative attracted almost 4,000 people to try out the platform, and more than 1,000 of those have moved on to the membership. According to the FT, Blok expects a “hybrid approach to working out” as the vast majority of customers said they would continue to use Bloktv along with training on site.
Other fitness centres are embracing the hybrid approach in this new phase. London-based Yoga and Pilates boutique Heartcore re-opened a few studios while also keeping online classes. The concept of Heartcore is to provide tools for physical as well as mental wellbeing.
Heartcore founder Jess Schuring believes low-intensity and mindful workouts are the best way to stay fit and they can be essential for stressful and anxiety-inducing times, like the current one: “Choosing more slow paced low-impact options like Yoga and Pilates have many benefits such as focusing the breath, improving our core connection and postural alignment, and increased awareness of body and movement. These more mindful training methods also help us to become more present, focussed and connected with ourselves.”
Fierce Grace Yoga , with studios in London, New York and Rome and a unique approach to wellbeing combining physiotherapy, meditation and fitness experts, now offers live-streamed classes every day through FGTV. Despite the convenience of being able to practice yoga at home, Fierce Grace classes can really only be fully experienced in the proper studio setting: Fierce Grace was the first center in the UK to introduce the concept of hot yoga, a form of exercise performing yoga in hot condition to increase sweating and impact.
Practising yoga and pilates in the studio being also the benefit of the teacher’s supervision. Some poses can be dangerous if not done correctly.
The reopening of gyms came with the UK government’s priority to address the obesity levels in the country and minimise risks for future pandemics and health crisis. According to government strategy, obesity is one of the biggest health crises in the country, with 63 per cent of adults in England being overweight or living with obesity. Obesity-related illnesses cost the NHS £6 billion a year.
Being overweight increases, the risk of serious illnesses, including COVID-19 as nearly 8 per cent of critically ill patients with COVID-19 in intensive care units have been morbidly obese, compared with 2.9% of the general population.
How’s your workout routine been?
Let us know how you feel about the re-opening, if you are back at the gym, doing online classes only, jogging in the park or got yourself a home bike. We’d love to hear from you.
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