The fitness industry has exploded in recent years into an $81 billion industry globally. In the past year alone, the industry has experienced a 2.6% growth, and even in light of the pandemic, particular niches within the industry continue to thrive. 

2020 has not been your typical year for many industries, with fitness being no exception. Forced closures, social distancing, and public concern for health and safety have drastically changed how gyms and fitness clubs operate.

Most Notable Trends of 2020

Many of the changes that COVID-19 has brought forth are not necessarily new concepts. New developments in the way fitness is delivered were merely accelerated by the pandemic’s onset as studios were forced to adapt more quickly. COVID-19 seemed to push many innovations in fitness and fitness-related technologies through to mass adoption. 

Read on for our list of the top 10 most notable fitness industry trends of 2020. 

  1. Boutique fitness

While boutique fitness was on the rise long before COVID-19 was a concern, its hold has only continued to grow. Boutique fitness studios can often more easily accommodate social distancing and enhanced cleaning procedures between classes. Small footprint studios, designated class times, and less equipment than big-box gyms all make this process easier and more effective for the studio’s operations.

Another reason why boutique studios are thriving is that many consumers belong to more than one boutique fitness studio, unlike a generic big-box gym. Fitness enthusiasts tend to favor highly specialized workouts and may want to complement their high-intensity training with yoga classes. 

Working out is becoming more of a social experience than just a physical one. People are willing to pay more for the environment, attention, and overall experience a boutique studio membership provides. Premium memberships that offer additional perks are also growing in popularity, especially if they help members feel like a part of the community. 

    2. Workout types

Some of the highest trending fitness programs in the industry are the following:

    a. Body-weight exercises
    b. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
    c. Weight training
    d. Yoga
    e. Functional fitness
    f. Hybrid fitness classes
    g. Personal training/group training

As mentioned before, many consumers will belong to multiple health clubs or studios to diversify their workouts. Typically, the more specialized the studio offerings and the more knowledgable the instructors, the more people are willing to pay to attend a class. This brings us right into the next trend.

    3. Experienced, certified fitness professionals

This is another trend that showcases, yet again, that big-box gyms simply are no longer cutting it for many consumers. The guidance and personalized attention provided by a boutique fitness class keeps people motivated and engaged in their health and fitness. 

A workout is simply a workout and can be done anywhere by anyone. But a carefully structured and delivered training program catered to the specific fitness levels of the clients, well, that is the experience people will pay for. 

Group of people performing fitness workout at CITYROW

    4. Trends in tech

As you’ve likely noticed, fitness apps and wearable technology have taken over. The ability to track vitals, set and monitor goals, and receive real-time feedback is invaluable to the fitness consumer. On the horizon, we might even see the spread of virtual reality gyms.

When it comes to tech, however, it’s not all about Fitbits and Apple Watches. Technologies for gyms and fitness centers have become more sophisticated to keep up with rising consumer expectations. Online booking and payment for fitness classes have become mainstream and are necessary to provide the type of experience people are looking for. 

    5. Socially distanced classes

As gyms have had to cope with the effects of COVID-19 on their business, we’ve seen several strategies play out to keep members safe, including:

  • Live stream and on-demand classes
  • Reduced capacity classes
  • Outdoor classes and events

Live stream classes have been gaining popularity for some time, with leading fitness brands like CITYROW offering CITYROW GO for people to workout from home. The pandemic has pushed for broader adoption of live stream classes, as well as pre-recorded on-demand classes. 

For some studios, online classes have been reserved for paying members. For others, they have opened up their virtual classes to the general public as a free offering during the pandemic. While each approach has its pros and cons, the important piece of the puzzle is that members are actively engaging with the brand. Once gyms can safely return to full capacity, engaged members are much more likely to do return.

    6. Wellness services

A backlash against diet culture and a focus on plant-based foods and intuitive eating have shaped the wellness industry as of late. Combining healthy eating habits with physical activity is a seamless transition for a fitness-based company, as is promoting physical activity as a long term approach to better health.

Another benefit of fitness that has gained attention recently is the idea of exercise as preventative medicine. More and more people are working out for wellness and quality of life as opposed to strictly for weight loss. Many corporate initiatives and wellness programs also encourage people to exercise their way to better health. 

    7. Inclusivity

Gyms used to be a place where fitness buffs would go to flex their muscles. It wasn’t much of a safe space for beginners or those who needed some additional guidance.

Things are changing these days, and the philosophy of “fitness for everyone” is taking hold. You’ve likely seen senior fitness classes and groups pop up in your area or gyms advertising their inclusivity. Medically supervised and prescribed exercise is even emerging in some areas, making fitness more accessible to those with health challenges.

CITYROW members flexing muscles

    8. Clubs in retail spaces

When it comes to big-box gyms and boutique studios alike, there is a trend towards fitness businesses opening in retail spaces. 

One of the perks of being in a space like this is that gyms can surround themselves with businesses that attract their target customers. Think about what an athletic apparel store next to a gym could do for business. It also opens up the opportunity for co-marketing and promoting your brand.

    9. At-home workouts

This one is a bit contradictory to the rise of boutique fitness, as it lacks the sense of community that many fitness consumers are looking for. While there will always be some individuals who prefer to exercise at home, this trend may be more of a short-term one due to the pandemic.  

Most consumers agree that at-home workouts are not an adequate substitute for their gym, with a lack of motivation and lack of community being at the forefront of their dissatisfaction. According to a study by IHRSA, a whopping 80% of Americans admit that COVID-19 has disrupted their normal workout routine.  

The best thing we can do for these consumers, for the time being, is to meet them where they are. In addition to live stream and on-demand workouts, many leading fitness brands have put their own home workout equipment on the market to bring their brand directly to people’s home gyms. 

    10. Fitness franchising

If you’ve ever considered joining this lucrative industry, you might want to pay close attention to this trend. There are roughly 10,000 fitness franchises in the U.S., which contributed to $4 billion in revenue in 2019. The reason why franchising is so popular in this industry is easy to see. 

While starting a gym from scratch requires knowledge of fitness and health, branding and marketing, employee management, business operations, accounting, and more, many first-time gym owners have found success with franchising. As a franchise owner, you’ll be able to rely on the strong branding power, business model, and operations systems created by the franchisor. Franchisee training programs and ongoing assistance will guide you every step of the way. 

Franchising is a great way to ensure that your investment has the best possible chance of success!

Participants have a great time at CITYROW's fitness program

Which fitness brands are set up for success in the current market?

Brands that have adapted quickly to social distancing, online workouts, and enhanced cleanliness standards will likely come out of this pandemic on top. The critical component here is customer trust. At the end of the day, your clients want to have a great time at your facility, and they can’t do that if they don’t feel safe and protected. 

Fortunately, CITYROW has innovated its way through this challenging time with the addition of virtual classes, open row sessions, socially distanced classes, and rent-a-rower programs. New studios continue to open across the country as enthusiastic customers continue to put their trust in us and our one-of-a-kind program. 

Franchise With Us!

Download our Franchise Lookbook for more information on the CITYROW franchise opportunity. Get in touch with us today to discuss the next steps in opening your own CITYROW Studio!

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