Almost exactly one year ago (at time of writing) the world changed, and most people across the globe had to pivot almost overnight to a new way of living and working. Almost everything in our lives had to be adapted to suit our ‘new normal’, with sport and exercise being no different. Our homes became our offices, our leisure spaces, and our gyms. Over the past year, exercise has been of paramount importance for millions of people. It’s helped us establish some level of routine, given us something to do and focus on, and has helped us keep fit not only physically but also mentally. With the closure of traditional workout spaces, government rhetoric of staying active from home (only leave your house to exercise!), and the push from celebs and influencers (ever heard of Joe …?), at-home work outs have taken hold more than ever before.
Research conducted by Sport England showed that 62% of adults in the UK consider being active as more important now than pre-Covid-19, with at-home workouts being one of the most popular forms of exercise behind walking. Data from the wearable fitness tracker company Garmin also showed that tracked indoor cardio workouts soared in 2020, up 150%, as people embraced at-home yoga, HIIT etc.
So moving further into 2021 and with restrictions easing, what is the future of home fitness? Will we all go rushing back to gyms and leisure centres? What have we learned from 2020 and what do sport/ fitness brands need to think about? Below are some trends we have heard from consumers whilst conducting sports research at 2CV throughout the pandemic and what consumers are hoping for in 2021 and beyond as we return to a ‘new normal’.
Motivate & challenge me!
Exercise at home is extremely convenient. We are only a few paces away from a workout. However, after the initial burst of workout motivation many people experienced back in April 2020, motivation is waning…consumers are struggling to find the ‘spark’ of motivation and there is a real role here for brands to get actively involved in inspiring people in their home environments. There’s nothing like signing up for a challenge to re-ignite your fitness motivation. Companies that have harnessed this throughout the pandemic have seen astonishing results. Strava’s Yearly report found that the total number of challenges joined exceeded 71 million between January and September 2020, with over one million athletes joining the platform’s monthly 5K challenge in May (the most ever in a single challenge). Peloton is another great example, with their annual ‘2021’ challenge encouraging users to rack up 15,000 minutes of cycling in a year. With uncertainty still prevailing, consumers are looking for more ways to challenge themselves and achieve new goals.
Personalise my fitness
Following a YouTube video is great, but consumers are really missing the personalisation that traditional gym/class-based workouts offer; the little tips and tricks offered by instructors to help elevate your form, or the support of another team mate to help you reach your goal. Consumers are looking for ways for brands to engage with them at a more personal level and help support them on their fitness journey on a more personal level.
Provide a sense of community and ‘togetherness’
One of the main drawbacks of at-home work-outs is that they can be a bit…lonely. Whilst solo exercise can be the preference for some, during the pandemic consumers felt themselves hankering after the shared experience of working out as part of a team, a class or just being surrounded by likeminded people (i.e. in a gym). Moving forward into 2021, consumers are looking for more opportunities to be part of a shared experience when working out from home, for motivation and a greater sense of accountability! Brands like Zwift, Peloton and tracking app Strava share users’ data and stats, using a “competitive and community” to motivate members which has proven hugely successful for home workouts during the pandemic.
Harness mind-body connection
We spent most of 2020 glued to a screen, including when working out. There is a real desire from consumers to change this in 2021, with a greater focus on mindful/screen-free workouts. Never before has the link between staying active and mental health been clearer, and consumers will be looking for brands to help facilitate exercise that brings together mind and body fitness. Whether that be through screen-free workouts, audio led workouts or introducing mindfulness and relaxation techniques. For example the app ‘Headspace’ launched their own yoga and home workout tutorials available through their app, all with the focus on mindful exercise to bridge the mind-body connection.
There may still be uncertain times ahead, but there’s a lot to be excited about in 2021 for the fitness industry. With many of us already having converted some of our living space into make-shift home workout spaces, it appears as though at-home workouts are here to stay. There is a real opportunity for brands to establish their relevance in this space – offering greater personalisation, motivation and holistic (mind-body) opportunities for consumers, making at-home fitness more accessible and enjoyable for all.