In March 2020 our everyday lives changed drastically, with most Brits being stripped of their favourite fitness routines. The pandemic made us homebound, but how did the fitness industry adapt to this new way of living, and where do we stand now? We’ve analysed the bookings made through our app and search volumes to help you understand how the pandemic changed the fitness landscape.
LOW IMPACT TRAINING GAINED THE MOST POPULARITY
Low Impact Training (LIT) for older adults was the highest relative gainer during the pandemic. LIT classes saw a 2556% relative increase in bookings between January and July 2021 compared to the number of bookings from the same period of time the year before, reaching the highest number of bookings in March 2021 with exercises such as Active Aging and Paracise to the fore.
Besides LIT, gymnastics, and martial arts classes also saw big increases in bookings in 2021, with classes being held virtually from January till April, and then in person after the easing of the lockdown measures.
Perhaps surprisingly, the gymnastics lovers were eager to carry on exercising during the pandemic as the sport had the second highest relative increase with bookings for classes going up by 308% during the first half of the 2021 when compared to 2020. Martial arts also bounced back strongly in 2021, with Karate, Jiu Jitsu, and Kung Fu bookings seeing a 203% like-for-like increase on the Gymcatch platform between January and July 2021, placing martial arts classes in third place.
DANCE AND RHYTHM: THE MOST POPULAR WORKOUT CATEGORY OVERALL
Fun dance and rhythm related exercise classes such as Zumba, Pole, Clubbercise, and Boogie Bounce accounted for a third of all exercise classes booked through the Gymcatch apps in 2021, dubbing the category the most popular form of exercise for the third year running.
The classes gained even more relative popularity over the pandemic as 20% of all our booked classes in 2019 were dance and rhythm related, whereas during the pandemic the category saw a 10% increase and accounted for 30% of all classes in 2021.
Being one of the Brits’s all time favourite exercises, boxing has remained as the second most popular exercise for the past 3 years. Between 2020 and 2021 the third most popular exercise has changed from Aerobics to now highly popular Low Impact Training.
MENTAL HEALTH VALUED MORE IN LOCKDOWN
Lockdown periods have taken their toll on mental health, with feelings of uncertainty increasing anxiety. Therefore it comes as no surprise that 5% of all classes booked through Gymcatch in 2021 accounted for emerging wellness classes.
To help manage negative emotions, Brits have been actively looking to book online Meditation classes and Thrive Approach which promotes children’s positive mental health by helping parents to understand their child’s mental state also gained popularity.
The highest number of these type of wellness class bookings were recorded between March and July 2020, and January and April 2021 when the UK was still under national lockdown. Like-for-like, they were 50% more popular in April 2021 than there were in April 2020, indicating that people had looked for ways to maintain and improve their mental health to get through the uncertain times.
Lockdown undoubtedly caused a rise in virtual workouts and socially distanced outdoor activities, and following the end of the national lockdown in April 2021, this trend continued, with people still hesitant to attend in-person classes. In May 25% of classes were still online only, reducing to 15% in June and July 2021.
PERSONAL TRAINER DEMAND IN 2021
Personal trainers were in demand after the UK’s gyms reopened in April 2021. The number of personal training sessions booked through the Gymcatch app saw a 70% spike in April compared to the demand just a month earlier in March. All in all there were 10% more personal training sessions booked between January and July 2021 than there were during the same months in 2020.
PRE AND POST NATAL CLASSES: 2021 SAW A RISE IN BOOKINGS
In 2020, Pre and Post Natal classes accounted for a smaller share of the overall class bookings than they did pre-pandemic in 2019. However, in 2021 the number of bookings saw an uptrend and the classes made up 3% of all places booked using the Gymcatch apps. The number of Pre and Post Natal class bookings increased by 135% between January and July 2021 compared to the same period of time the year before in 2020.
THE MOST SEARCHED FOR EXERCISES IN THE UK
The Brits seem to disagree on their favourite exercises, as most of the English were looking up for local Pilates classes with the Scottish showing more interest in yoga and core workouts over the past 3 years. Like the Scottish, the Welsh were on a journey of a balanced lifestyle with yoga being the most searched for exercise. In Northern Ireland people were keen to work on their abs with most searches being for core exercises.
Even the English were divided over their favourite exercise; the South preferring Pilates, whereas the North preferred Yoga and Gymnastics. Overall, the most searched for exercises were Pilates, Yoga, and Martial Arts.
Things might not be as they used to be quite yet, but for what it’s worth at least gyms are open now, and most exercise classes are running as they were before the pandemic, providing many with a much needed sense of routine and community.
Ene is a Certified Personal Trainer and business development professional. Ene’s focus at Gymcatch is on growing and maximising strategic partnerships through collaboration.