What hasn’t the COVID-19 outbreak affected?
We’re all adapting to new circumstances and situations as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic but for the global fitness industry, it’s been a particularly challenging time.
The industry does so much in-person: gyms, classes, PT sessions, team sports, group training, community events, etc.
So, when the UK Government announced tighter social-distancing rules along with the immediate closure of gyms and fitness centres, it meant that we all had to adapt to some rather unique and challenging circumstances.
COVID-19 is affecting the world of fitness in a big way. The longer the pandemic goes on for, the bigger the implications for the industry.
A lot of gyms have moved classes and content online. There’s been a big shift towards using social media platforms like Instagram and online video conferencing software like Zoom, to connect with existing clients and new users.
Everything from HIIT to yoga, barre to boxing and dance is being offered either for free, through a discounted rate, or via monthly subscription all online.
Gymbox closed its gyms in March and switched classes to Instagram. Barry’s UK did the same thing. Nike has dropped its subscription-fee for its premium service. Paywalls have come down and content is being streamed or uploaded and shared for free. There’s never been a better time to expand your at-home practice.
Freelance PTs and self-employed teachers and trainers have taken to the internet, too. Offering classes through online portals and connecting with clients by delivering workouts at a distance.
Of course, not all gyms, fitness centres or instructors can deliver quality online content. Clients don’t always feel loyal or connected to what they’d previously paid for in-person (some instructors are hired by corporate teams to provide in-house services, for example). Others might work with the elderly or vulnerable and who aren’t able to access digital content.
There’s also the need for a decent set-up such as a good webcam or a decent camera on a phone. Lighting can be a problem, too. Good internet connection is a must and there’s the issue of space. Not everyone has the advantage of enough room to complete energetic routines from home. Smaller businesses could find it hard to transition to digital content especially as COVID-19 caught a lot of people by surprise.
Paying the Bills
The UK might be in lockdown but that doesn’t mean that bills and overheads have stopped. The Government has promised financial help but there’s no denying that some gyms will close permanently as a result of COVID-19.
Industry body UKActive says that 2,800 gyms could close by mid-June unless the Government steps in.
That’s 11,000 jobs at risk.
Membership freezes mean that many gyms have lost regular, dependable income. Those who didn’t freeze membership (without asking first), may see a flurry of cancellations. Loans needed to help gyms stay open and access to money via the furlough scheme needs to come faster, UKActive argues.
It also says that some gyms are having trouble accessing support, have failed to secure insurance claims or are being threatened with eviction.
Nobody knows how long the COVID-19 lockdown will last but it’s already having a profound impact on businesses.
If large companies are facing significant difficulties and losses, then it’s reasonable to suspect that smaller ones will be hard hit, too.
COVID-19: A Tipping Point?
There’s a fear in the industry than the prolonged closure of gyms and fitness centres will mean people become used to not using them.
Members could start cancelling their memberships.
The boost to at-home and digital fitness could be enough to make people jump from location-based fitness at gyms and centres to a more flexible (and often cheaper) alternative in their homes.
Influencers Branching Out
Fitness influencers were always well placed to benefit from a digital boost. But many are also expanding their specialisms from gym-based exercise to a focus on self-care as well as physical fitness. More are talking about meditation and diet, healthy recipes they’ve cooked, books they’ve enjoyed and wellness routines. It’ll be interesting to see if they continue with this once the COVID-19 pandemic is contained.
Without gyms and classes, many people have turned to at-home workouts to stay fit and healthy. Whilst some are turning to digital content, others are buying equipment to use themselves: skipping ropes, dumbbells, yoga mats, ab rollers, resistance bands, etc. The companies selling these items have seen a massive jump in sales.
Shares in Peloton jumped 9.2% last month and that’s despite the fact new that bikes can’t be delivered right now.
There’s a lot a person can do to maintain fitness in the home. And things like resistance bands and ab rollers don’t take up a lot of space.
The boom of at-home exercising ties in with the concern that COVID-19 is a tipping point. If you enjoy working out at home, then what happens when the gyms open again: do you go back or do you cancel your membership?
Counting Down for the Gyms to Open
Closing gyms was a necessary step to control the spread of Coronavirus, but we’re all rooting for them to open as soon as it’s safe to do so.
At-home practices are flourishing and that’s amazing, and thanks to the dedication and ingenuity of trainers, teachers and instructors, but there’s nothing quite like the group experience of a gym or a class, a park run or a community group.
We just hope that there’s enough financial support now (and in the future) to keep gyms and classes going.