COVID-19 has changed a lot of things, but it's still unclear as to whether or not it's changed the fitness industry forever. UK gyms have been shut since the lockdown was first announced back in March, and it's unlikely that they'll be reopening in the near future.
But people are still exercising.
We know how important exercise is in supporting the body's immune system, and it's why the Government made an exception for daily exercise in its 'stay at home' message.
But with gyms and leisure facilities still closed and with social distancing measures still in place, it's difficult to imagine when we'll be able to return to our pre-lockdown workout routines.
And will we want to?
There's concern in the industry that the longer people go without using the gym, the less likely it is that members will return.
We could all adapt a little too well to at-home practices and digital workouts, and who isn't tempted to cut out membership fees forever by working out for free in a spare bedroom, garden or park.
And with so many UK workers furloughed right now, and with some facing job insecurity, it may be that people just don't have the disposable income to justify annual memberships.
If someone cancels a membership, how likely is it they'll be back in the future?
Before COVID-19, the global fitness industry was worth almost $100 billion. It was hard to imagine anything disrupting it, but Coronavirus shows how quickly things can change and how vulnerable UK businesses are both socially and economically in the face of a global catastrophe.
Climate change is set to become the next big global challenge and looking at the long-term effects of Coronavirus, it's important for the fitness industry to be open and adaptable to change.
It's one reason why Energym is more committed than ever to putting its clean-energy generating gym equipment into homes so that people can exercise at home efficiently. But we're also putting our bikes into gyms and fitness centres, too to help gyms reduce their energy bills and their carbon footprints.
Gyms will be one of the last things to re-open.
The lockdown will be lifted in increments, and it'll be some time before we're all back at the racks and on the benches and treadmills. The psychological effect of lockdown will last far longer than the lifting of the last few restrictions. People are going to be cautious. They'll be fewer members and fewer prospective members right at the time when many gyms will need them more than ever.
Despite assurance from the Government about help, we're going to see gyms closing across the country. There's no doubt that there's been a huge surge towards digital fitness.
Trainers, instructors, celebrities, gyms and studios, have all raced to put content out for people to consume at home.
In March, Google searches for 'at-home workouts' increased by 50% because with nowhere to go, people were turning to the internet for fitness ideas. It's certainly accelerated the demand for digital fitness and many in the industry believe the upsurge will be permanent.
It does mean that this is another challenge for gyms with physical premises. Digital content during a grin-and-bear-it lockdown is one thing, but paying members will expect slicker production values and a wider range of workouts if online classes become part of paid memberships. It's not always going to be possible within all budgets or within all business owners' skillsets.
Gyms and studios might also struggle to find and keep trainers and instructors who've jumped to digital platforms. Online content has the advantage that it's not location based. Your target market doesn't have to live within 15 miles of a studio anymore. Clients could be in other cities or countries. The digital world can be a huge advantage to trainers but it could make it harder for gyms to attract and retain their services.
Of course, there's nothing like a gym or class for camaraderie, support and atmosphere. You're just not going to find that in your own living room. Digital fitness does pose a threat to bricks-and-mortar gyms but online classes can't replicate the atmosphere or physical connection of working out in a bricks-and-mortar building.
People aren't just working out digitally. They're kitting their homes out with gym equipment, too.
The at-home gym equipment industry has blown-up during the pandemic. People are buying indoor bikes; barbell sets, benches, and plates and even skipping ropes and kettlebells. There's no doubt that building an at-home practice is more convenient and can be more affordable and just as effective. We won't know how much of an impact at-home workouts have had on gyms until after lockdown has lifted, but we do know at the moment that there's been a huge upsurge in home-gym purchases.
Coronavirus is changing the fitness industry and some of those
Changes are likely to be permanent.
One thing's for certain, we won't stop working out and there'll be plenty of new opportunities, developments and ways of exercising that will keep us fitter and healthier. We hope that this will go some way to shoring up an industry that's being hugely affected by COVID-19 and social distancing.
Find out more about the Energym RE:GEN for the home or how our electricity-generating indoor cycling bikes could reduce your energy bills.