The year 2020 is probably the most memorable in many of our lives. We saw the pandemic significantly impact the fitness industry then, as well as in 2021. Now, as we enter the year 2022, the fitness world continues to feel its effects.
What influence will the more widespread use of vaccines, easing efforts, and our increasing need to get back to ‘normal’ have on fitness trends?
Before we dive into some of the most common predictions for the fitness industry in 2022, let’s take a look back at what major trends everyone said would happen in 2021, and what actually did happen.
2021: Predictions versus reality
In short: arguably not the case.
Industry experts believed in a live revival. With Covid doing its normal Covid thing (we’re looking at you Delta variant) gyms came to terms with the fact that the pandemic wasn’t going away anytime soon.
Restrictions and lockdowns returned with a vengeance and gyms felt the pressure to reinvent themselves.
Micro-gyms, private studios, social wellness communities, and hybrid models came to the surface, innovating the in-person experience. It appeared that a ‘roaring recovery’ only came to those who digitally transformed.
Brands like 1Rebel in Hammersmith, Round11 in Amsterdam, and Fitness First Germany reimagined what an in-club and gym floor workout looked like with the implementation of virtual classes and digital circuit workouts.
Omnichannel and hybrid fitness would grow
This was very much the case. Digital, online, outdoor, in-club, at home, and on-the-go: it was all happening in 2021.
We saw an influx of brands combining hardware, software, and content, with the likes of Peloton, iFit and Echelon, who all launched into vertically integrated platforms that would help them own the entire fitness journey.
Similar to 2020, personal trainers continued to offer services through Zoom and Facebook, while independent operators started doing things their own way. Multi-site chains created their own, sophisticated platforms in record time, while others partnered with existing online and digital brands and made them available to their members.
There’d be high-tech innovation
From computer vision and AI to virtual reality, technology was definitely redefining fitness.
Zwift created virtual worlds like video games and Tonal used 17 sensors to guide their users through a workout. Oculus, Supernatural, and FitXR advanced VR fitness and Exer, PUSH, and Perch utilised computer vision and motion tracking to support at-home and in-person training. It should be noted that in 2021, Oculus sold more headsets than Microsoft sold Xbox units.
Facebook and Apple were also set to release their AR smart glasses, but we’re yet to see these products go to market in 2022.
A greater uptake of wearables
In 2021, wearables were named the number 2 trend, beaten only by online training. More users opted to put down their phones and wear their smartwatches, which caused this market to flourish.
Big Tech took notice.
Amazon was able to leverage machine learning technology that saw their Halo Band outperform lab devices, while Google acquired Fitbit for $2.1B in early 2021.
Gyms and member app services picked up on the trend too, integrating digital health tracking software to keep their customers engaged.
2022: What the industry predicts and what can we do about it?
Fitness brands and consumers will stop thinking about fitness as an isolated offering, and instead as an extension of entertainment.
Web3 will explode: the Metaverse, VR, and NFTs
The next wave of innovation will focus on fun, gamification, and entertainment as more fitness brands and creators wade into web3.
The industry is predicting more social experiences in the form of leaderboards, groups, immersive workouts, and multiplayer competitions, as well as new business models and incentive structures, like paying users to workout.
Fitness games are already rewarding players with crypto tokens. Sweatcoin and Clinicoin are paying users for steps and other activities, while Cadoo uses cash wagers to encourage accountability. Meanwhile, Paceline and Ness are launching wellness credit cards to merge physical and financial wellbeing.
By 2028, the global VR gaming market is predicted to reach $53B (up from $7B in 2021). With Apple and Facebook both delaying their VR/AR rollout, it’s unclear whether this trend will really take off in 2022, but we’re excited to watch this new trend unfold.
What can gyms do about it?
It’s fair to say that most gyms won’t have the time nor the resources to enter into web3 anytime soon (at least at the level of the at-home market), but there are some things fitness facilities can do right now to capitalise on this trend.
Initiating regular workout challenges and in-person or digital leadership boards are a great way to encourage members to workout with your gym more frequently, whether that’s in-club or via your facility’s app.
Rather than offering tokens or NFTs, fitness facilities can think about implementing their own member loyalty points system, gifting their loyal members with other rewards such as discounted memberships, club merchandise, vouchers to local restaurants, and more.
True Personalisation: wearables, biowearables, and online coaching
Wearables have been coined the number one trend for 2022.
Over the past 12-24 months, tracking, testing, and tracing have become an omnipresent part of our daily lives. In the fight against coronavirus, people have given new prominence and value to the use of technology and science in understanding their bodies and protecting their health.
Smart watches, heart rate monitors, and GPS tracking devices will continue to rise and upgrade with new features that will deliver better insights into our diet, sleep, and metabolism, even down to our glucose, ketone and lactate levels.
Accountability as a service and scaling one-to-one coaching on a digital level will steadily grow. Machine learning and computer vision has already unlocked real-time form guidance, and remote coaching has taken personalised programming to a whole new level.
What can gyms do about it?
Star trainers and coaches have the ability to pull members into your club and keep them coming back. Giving your customers easier and more personalised access to your very own member magnets could play a major role in retaining your current fitness goers and attracting new ones.
Rather than investing in your own tracking devices and digital coaching technology, gyms may find it a better use of time and resources to partner with a provider that offers these services instead.
Outsourcing these solutions can help reduce time to market, allowing your club to cash in on this growing trend while it’s still hot.
Omnichannel and hybrid fitness is here to stay
We dub 2022 as the ‘era of choice’.
Consumers are more empowered than ever to workout on their own terms and they will continue to enjoy a mix of home exercise, on-the-go, and in-club workouts. In fact, home exercise was named the number two trend for 2022, so refreshing the traditional in-club advisory in an effort to compete against the rapidly innovating at-home market is essential.
What can gyms do about it?
Offering in-club digital workouts, like virtual classes, during on-and off-peak times can not only appeal to members who are seeking a more flexible service, but also attract new markets, like shift workers, who usually cannot attend typical group class times.
Delivering a member-app with at-home fitness content can also boost membership retention and sales by supporting the customers who’ve come to enjoy the comfort of working out in their own environment during lockdowns, or those still hesitant to return to the club due to fears of the coronavirus.
Gyms and fitness facilities still have time to deliver a wrap-around-360°-service model to attract the fitness seekers of today, who demand greater flexibility, variety, and quality of service.
Operators can choose from multiple options to meet these member demands, whether it’s through the delivery of in-club virtual classes and workouts, digital fitness content via an app, or a combination of the two.