Group Fitness Trends Set to Shape the Next Decade

(Photo courtesy Les Mills.)

Looking ahead, we can see the outline of exciting new fitness trends starting to take shape. If the last decade brought us the boutique boom, birth of IMMERSIVE classes, and a whole lot of HIIT, the next decade is shaping up to deliver even more disruption.

So which trends will define the 2020s? A new book from EuropeActive, “HORIZON 2030 – The future of the health and fitness sector,” sets out to address that very question, combining expert insights with the latest industry data to chart the course ahead. 

The report predicts continued expansion for clubs over the next decade, with group fitness cited as a key growth driver. With greater numbers of fitness newbies taking their first steps into the market through online classes before graduating into the live space, group workouts will be essential to the growth of the fitness industry.

As we think ahead to fitness in 2030, here are six standout trends to shape the next decade:

1. Boutiques blend with budgets and big boxes bounce back.
Realizing a price war will inevitably result in a race to the bottom, many of the larger budget chains are already upscaling their offering with added extras such as group fitness to “premiumize” the experience. Meanwhile, boutiques are spreading beyond their metropolitan heartlands with a growing number of low-cost offerings aiming to make the boutique experience more accessible. Which of these new hybrid formats will ultimately prevail? It’s still anybody’s game with the only guaranteed winner being the brand that offers consumers more choice and better quality.

Aided by growing consumer appetite for a breadth of training modalities, traditional big box clubs are tipped to see a group fitness-driven resurgence and are investing in their offering to create boutiques within their clubs. By offering a boutique experience alongside benefits such as pools and parking, big boxes are making a compelling case for a greater share of their members’ wallets by negating their need to look elsewhere.

2. Today’s tastemakers take control
With Millennials and Gen Z making up more than 80 percent of all people paying for fitness, according to Qualtrics, the workout preferences of this cohort – dubbed ”Generation Active” for their unprecedented appetite for fitness experiences – give a strong indication of how clubs will be shaped by consumers in years to come.

While the average age of a club’s total membership might be 35+ (dragged by a long tail), analysis of 5,000 global clubs shows the majority of new joiners are in their 20s. Generation Active favor working out in groups, a broader range of options and smart integration of technology – so it’s essential to adapt club offerings to win their business during the coming decade.

3. Social fitness unites us all
A recent Men’s Health UK article that asked a panel of fitness experts what the gym of 2029 will look like concluded: “Group exercise will never be for everyone. But its rising popularity, whether at big boxes or small boutiques, is a strong predictor of the gym’s future as a hub of an increasingly precious commodity: human interaction.”

With much of the world having spent 2020 in isolation, people are seeking connections on a personal level with brands and like-minded consumers. They want to feel part of their community. Recent research highlights the huge role clubs can play in helping people to digitally disconnect and get back to their real-world roots through shared exercise experiences. Published in the Journal of Sport, Exercise and Performance Psychology, the Les Mills Groupness Study found gym attendees experience increased levels of individual enjoyment, exertion and satisfaction as a result of group exercise. It identified the powerful role “groupness” plays in positively influencing a club member’s overall workout experience – and their intention to return.

4. Instructors to the forefront
In an age of automation and digital disruption, inspirational individuals remain the only unique selling point in the gym that rivals can’t copy. The quality of the instructor is the biggest single influence on where Millennials and Gen Z choose to do group workouts with 37 percent listing this as their top reason for attending a class, according to Qualtrics. But they don’t just want flash. Substance over style is Generation Active’s preference for instructors – with the most important quality being someone who coaches intelligently.

A single great instructor can attract and retain hundreds of members to a club over time, while a team of them can transform a club’s future.

5. A fully connected fitness experience
Advances in technology are opening new ways for people to enjoy group fitness beyond the traditional live class setting, particularly in the wake of the COVID pandemic.

Today’s consumers demand a seamlessly connected fitness experience that suits their lifestyle and enables them to work out on their terms. Eighty-five percent of all gym members were already doing workouts at home pre-COVID, according to Qualtrics, illustrating the importance of catering for all types of fitness experiences if a club is to inspire loyalty among modern members. From a group workout perspective, this means a fully integrated live, virtual and on-demand solution that can truly take a club’s reach beyond the four walls and into every aspect of a member’s fitness journey.

With tech giants such as Apple, Amazon and Facebook betting big on fitness solutions, consumers’ expectations will evolve as rapidly as these firms’ ever-more sophisticated fitness apps, wearables and on-demand solutions. As a result, clubs will have to constantly innovate to remain competitive and relevant to their users.

6. Digital fitness – friend or foe?
On-demand fitness will expand as a category over the next decade, and this will be key to the growth of clubs. Smart use of technology will help to grow the fitness market, reach new audiences and ultimately drive people into clubs for live fitness experiences.

Many industry observers have voiced fears that on-demand fitness services will cannibalize the traditional health club membership, but the numbers don’t bear this out. Although the digital fitness revolution has gathered pace in recent years, gym memberships and penetration rates have continued to steadily increase with 2019 seeing record numbers of club members.

Evidence suggests digital fitness is bringing more people into the world of workouts, helping them overcome some of the main hurdles that have stopped them signing up in the past: perceived cost, convenience and lack of time. Now, the inactive, the self-conscious and the time-poor are signing up for digital fitness in droves, growing the market and creating opportunities to graduate more people into the club space.

Exciting times are ahead for the global fitness industry. For its unrivaled ability to motivate seasoned exercisers and mobilize new ones, group fitness has a huge part to play in driving fitness forward to 2030. Digital solutions will no doubt have a key role in democratizing fitness and taking it to the masses. At the same time, this is a human industry, grounded in physicality and relationships, so great people will always be at the heart of the fitness experience. As such, clubs that bridge the gap between the digital and physical world to offer seamlessly integrated fitness experiences will be the big winners in the 2020s.

Grab your copy of EuropeActive’s “HORIZON 2030 – The future of the health and fitness sector.”

BIO

Jak Phillips is global content director for Les Mills International. Les Mills is the global leader in group fitness, with 20 programs available in participating gyms and fitness facilities worldwide. Les Mills programs include the world’s first group exercise resistance training workout BODYPUMP, BODYCOMBAT (martial arts), RPM (indoor cycling), BODYFLOW (yoga), LES MILLS GRIT (30-minute high-intensity interval training) and the revolutionary immersive cycle experience, THE TRIP. Each workout is refreshed and updated with new choreography and music every three months. Founded in New Zealand in 1968 by four-time Olympian Les Mills, the company has grown over the past 52 years to become the world-leader group fitness. Les Mills workouts are delivered by 140,000 certified instructors in 21,000 clubs across 100 countries and are available as live, virtual and immersive classes, as well as via the LES MILLS On Demand streaming platform. For more information, visit www.lesmills.com/us

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