Experience

The Evolution of the Fitness Industry

Jenny20Weller
Jenny Weller
06 January 21
11 min read
men running on a treadmill

The fitness industry is always evolving and changing. As we step into the New Year, it’s safe to say that 2020 will not be missed. January is a natural time for reflection to see how far the fitness industry has really come. In truth, there have been so many changes over the past five years, let alone the history of fitness. Like a lot of industries, technology is often at the core of innovation. From wearables and gadgets to virtual personal training and fitness streaming platforms, technology has changed the way we work out. In this article, we take a look at the evolution of the fitness industry and what to expect in the future. 

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A Brief History of the Fitness Industry 

Back when mankind was new to the planet, humans had to survive. They did this through running, climbing, agility, throwing, and crawling. To carry out daily activities and survive, people had to be fit and strong. 

Fast forward to ancient times and you have the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Again, fitness was considered essential in everyday lives to fight, fend off predators, and survive. During the Greek and Roman empires, boys and men were required to perform extensive fitness training like lifting, weapons training, running, and throwing weapons. It was important for them to have superior fitness to their rivals. 

When the industrial revolution hit, advances in technology made some jobs redundant. All of a sudden, we didn’t have to move as much to survive. People weren’t burning as much energy and eating more food than ever. Food was no longer an issue of survival and things like obesity and diabetes started to grow. 

4President Theodore Roosevelt began to promote physical activity as a way to prevent disease.  In the 60s and 70, health club chains started to pop up and in 1975, we saw the birth of Gold’s Gym and the rise of the concept of big-box gyms. It opened fitness to the masses.  

Mainstream Fitness and the Emergence of Bix Box Gyms 

As we approach the big-hair 80s, there’s an emergence of gym chains like LA Fitness and 24 Hour Fitness. Jazzercise and home aerobics with Jane Fonda are taking the fitness industry by storm. Legwarmer-clad women burst through the doors at health clubs to lift weights and do their favorite aerobic dance classes. Mainstream fitness has fully arrived. 

The Last Decade of Fitness: What’s Changed? 

The mega gym chains from the 70s and 80s continue to this day. But, what has changed is that today’s consumers are looking for a more personal and intimate experience. Throughout the last decade, boutique gyms and fitness clubs, and specialty training facilities offer a new type of experience. 

Looking back on the last decade, there have been so many changes. Around circa 2010, we start to see the move away from traditional brick and mortar style gyms toward bootcamp sessions, and classes like Zumba and boxing. Boutique studios like Orangetheory Fitness launched, followed by F45 a couple of years later. Interest in personal training and functional training continued to rise. 

Fitness trackers and apps have come along leaps and bounds. What started as a basic pedometer now gives users a complete profile of their health like heart rate, steps, and hours slept. Fitness equipment is getting better and smarter and evolving alongside the industry. As the fitness experience gets more personalized, technology and consumer behavior will continue to drive change. 

The Age of COVID-19 

COVID-19- has changed the fitness industry as we know it. Lockdowns and restrictions have had a massive effect on the way people exercise. People are social distancing for several months and in-person group fitness almost feels like a distant memory. But the COVID-19 crisis has left a positive mark and that’s the emphasis it’s put on the need for exercise. Nations are being encouraged to move daily as a way to stay healthy and prevent disease. 

As new exercise habits have been adopted, we’re seeing a massive increase in home fitness as well as digital fitness. We’re seeing a huge upsurge in demand for online content. Streaming platforms, on-demand fitness, and virtual personal training are on the rise. Many people are getting outside for a daily walk, run, or cycle to get their heart racing. 

The home is no longer the place you go to at the end of your workday. It’s your office, your gym, and in some cases your school. Technology has allowed many people to work from home and access digital fitness content. As fitness brands leverage technology innovation, they can create even more personalized home fitness solutions for consumers. Smart home gym equipment like Mirror, Tempo, FightCamp give users the opportunity to bring smart boutique fitness into the home. 

How Technology is Disrupting the Fitness Industry 

To this day, technology has disrupted every industry. It’s often at the heart of change. It’s integrated into health, education, and of course, fitness. As technology changes the way consumers exercise, over time it has a huge impact on the fitness industry. For example, wearables are not just for the avid gym-goer but for your regular person who just wants to move a little more throughout the day. Health and fitness awareness is growing massively, and technology gives you access to a huge amount of information. This increases the demand for a completely personalized approach to fitness and health. 

It’s not just personal fitness technology that is changing the industry. Nowadays, fitness centers and gyms offer completely technology-centered solutions. Technology is what fuels the fitness experience and allows businesses to compete in such a crowded market. 

Technology such as wearables, artificial intelligence, mobile applications, and IoT will continue to disrupt the fitness industry. The demand for fitness technology looks set to increase as the user experience becomes even more important. 

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The coronavirus pandemic has put the focus on how technology is so important to connect, to work, and to exercise. As we look toward the future of the fitness industry, no doubt, technology will be the driving force behind innovation alongside the ever-changing consumer mindset. 

The Industry Focus Podcast has a great episode on the future of fitness. Host Jason Moser is joined by MyWallSt Head Analyst Rory Carron to dive into the conversation. The pair talk about how companies like Peloton, Lululemon, and Apple are shaping a new paradigm of how people are staying fit and what this means for the future. 

The Future of the Fitness Industry: 6 Things to Look Out For 

Although the pandemic isn’t quite behind us yet, there is light on the horizon. A vaccine is due to roll out and it has the potential to change the industry even further. As facilities open back up and restrictions ease, some effects of the pandemic may stick around. Let’s take a look at six things to look out for in the future. 

1. High-Tech Home Gym Equipment 

In the second half of 2020, the fit tech company JaxJox raised $10 million in funding. The smart home gym uses AI to track and boost your wellness score. The solution includes a 43 inch TV that rotates as well as smart kettlebells and dumbbells that you can configure to any weight. It currently works with Apple’s HealthKit and will soon integrate with GoogleFit. 

This is just one company out of many businesses that have identified the opportunity in high-tech home gym equipment. People are spending more time at home and brands are investing in technology solutions that can create a more personalized and high-end gym experience in the home. 

2. Digital Fitness Will Continue to Grow 

It’s not surprising that digital fitness will continue to expand. As more fitness brands find creative ways to connect with members, the home fitness experience will improve. Digital fitness allows people to work out from wherever they are. All of a sudden, you have access to a virtual personal trainer and exercise program. You don’t have to think about it or research the best way to move your body. It’s handed to you at the touch of a button. From cardio and calisthenics to Pilates and bodybuilding, you can find a fitness platform to suit your needs. 

As digital fitness streaming platforms and on-demand services continue to grow, brands will have to compete in the increasingly crowded space of digital fitness. The best brands will create an incredible digital experience that delivers results, motivates, and holds members accountable. Eventually, restrictions should ease throughout the world. Digital fitness is complimentary to the in-person experience, not a replacement. 

3. Changing Consumer Behavior 

As the fitness industry changes, there are several things that play a role. One of the main driving forces is changing consumer habits and behavior. Consumer behavior is influenced by multiple factors. For example, the internet massively altered how consumers perceive brands and the coronavirus changed consumer priorities.  

Many people are nervous about returning to normal activities like heading to a busy gym. With financial uncertainty, some people are struggling with economic stability. This means that there is now a greater emphasis on value. Consumers have an increased awareness of health and fitness and what it means for them. All of this greatly influences purchasing decisions. 

4. Rise of Hybrid Business Models 

Hybrid fitness businesses have both a digital and in-person arm to the business. They have a yoga studio in New York as well as a digital fitness platform where they stream live studio yoga classes and provide access to a library of on-demand content. This multipronged approach to business gives brands more financial security, especially in the case of government closures and restrictions. 

Many brands pivoted to a digital way of working during the first lockdown. Now, fitness brands need to have a digital fitness element to their business in order to compete with other brands. By providing a digital fitness experience to your members and keeping them motivated no matter the situation, you can retain customer loyalty and continue to generate income. 

5. The Era of Home Fitness 

The home fitness revolution was already well underway before the COVID-19 pandemic. But now we are in the era of home fitness. Home fitness is now fully accepted as an effective way to stay fit and healthy. People are finding more creative ways to be healthy at home. By using wearables and other fitness technology, users can access a ton of fitness data and actively see their progression. 

Home fitness makes room for more innovation in health and fitness apps, wearables, home gym equipment, smart clothing, and digital fitness platforms. Virtual personal training and one on one health coaching through a smartphone give fitness professionals access to clients like never before. You’re no longer restricted by location and can train someone in their home. 

6. Living in a Post-COVID World 

As we head further into 2021, we can look with hope to the future. Currently, we don’t know how long we will feel the effects of the pandemic. The fitness industry will need to adapt to living in a post-COVID world. Temperature checks on the way into the gym could become the norm and specialized training for high-risk groups could increase. 

Some form of limited gym capacity and social distancing with stringent hygiene protocols could continue into the future. On the other hand, there will be a new appreciation for group classes and the ability to connect with other people in person. Many people have been feeling the effects of isolation and the need for community is crystal clear. Fitness brands will need to continue to leverage and grow their community as fitness becomes more than physical exercise. It’s a place to meet friends, ease stress, and have fun. 

In Summary 

The fitness industry has come a long way since Ancient Greek times. As the fitness industry properly emerged into the mainstream, fitness trends have come and gone over the years. While technology remains at the core of innovation and change in the industry, fitness brands will need to adapt to the growing demands of consumers. 

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