People Exercised More, Embraced New Activities During COVID-19, Per Report

During the COVID-19 pandemic, both people who were already active and those who were new to exercise increased their physical activity levels, according to a review of data starting in March 2020 of Gympass platform users.

People across the world who use the Gympass platform exercised more and embraced new activities during the past year of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, according to a global report by Gympass.

The report, “What a year of COVID-19 has taught us about stress and adaptability,” features data from nine countries around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany, on use of thousands of fitness and well-being activities and apps available on the Gympass well-being platform between March 2020 and December 2020.

Gympass saw increases in physical activity for both those already active and those new to exercise. Work-from-home schedules and the drop off of commutes led to the creation of a new pocket of time for people to fit in fitness, with a 43 percent increase in booking at 10 a.m.

Gympass’ data showed that highly active users stayed as active as they had been prior to the pandemic, if not slightly more. When compared to that of March to December 2019, highly active users’ activity level was nearly identical (and was actually +0.7 percent). 

Less active individuals saw a 20.8 percent increase in their average weekly check-ins on Gympass after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The top activities for these first-timers included HIIT and yoga (United States and United Kingdom), functional training (Spain and Brazil) and Pilates (Italy). 

Massi Sardi, vice president at Gympass, said: “The past year proved just how fragile mental health and well-being can be, which is why it is essential that we invest in it. Out team firmly believes in listening to our corporate clients across the globe and the changing needs of their employees. Through this report, we were able to see firsthand exactly how much fitness and well-being supported people through this difficult time and also what people want and need more of. Overall, what was clear to us was that no matter where in the world we looked, being flexible and accommodating is essential. As we continue to work through this time, our goal is to provide a service that encompasses those two things while helping people to feel good.”

The pandemic has also impacted the way people are getting in their workouts. With working from home becoming the norm for many, exercise sessions are no longer confined to early mornings or after the office closes. 

The report found that a mid-morning exercise session was popular as it provided a break for people who had been online for an hour or two, with bookings at 10 a.m. increasing by 43 percent. At the opposite end, later evening workouts, likely after dinner, also increased, and the lack of social, sports and entertainment events led to a significant increase in weekend workouts, with a 111 percent increase in Sunday workouts.

There wasn’t just an increase in physical activity. More than one-third of people opted for mental health support when they checked in to the Gympass platform. Toward the end of 2020, there was a 115 percent increase in people using the mindfulness app Calm with men being the fastest-growing demographic. Calm also reported more parents with their kids at home using the app, underscoring the additional stress due to COVID-19 lockdowns.

These findings are similar to those of the Annual Topline Participation Report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), which found that U.S. inactivity level decreased by 2.4 percentage points in 2020. That report also found that Americans did not stay active at the same frequency and avidity as prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite these two reports, a survey by the American Psychological Association, Stress in America, found that 61 percent of Americans experienced undesired weight changes—gains or losses—during the pandemic. Forty-two percent gained more weight than they intended with the average weight gain being 29 pounds. Ten percent reported gaining more than 50 pounds during that time. For the 18 percent of Americans who said they lost more weight than they wanted to, the average amount of weight lost was 26 pounds.

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