• Chloe Reynolds

Fitness in the future: What will the industry look like in 10 years time?

Looking back over the last 30 years, the fitness industry has changed beyond recognition. More people are working out in gyms and taking part in sports and recreational fitness activities than ever before, as we are all becoming more aware of the importance of managing a healthy weight.

If you are thinking about moving into a fitness career, this is probably the best time in history to be making the move. New gyms and boutique exercise centres are popping up every week and they all want to recruit quality trainers and instructors. In 2019 there were 189,000 people working in a fitness career in over 7,000 gyms. However, you may be wondering about the longevity of your job. With such massive developments taking place in the online space all the time, are you worried that you won’t be needed in 5/10 years? Will virtual classes take over from instructor lead? Will online PT usurp the need for live sessions? I’ve taken out my glass ball and taken a look into the future of what I think the fitness industry will look like 10 years from now.

I believe that there will always be a place for traditional health clubs, the sort of places where you can access a gym, classes, swimming pool and spa in one building (think Virgin Active, David Lloyd, Nuffield Health). However, I feel that the “middle market” of gyms will slowly start to disappear. Chains will start to target either the top or bottom of the market, moving towards the boutique experience or appealing to the budget mass market. The classes delivered by these chain gyms will start to have a more “boutique” feel to them to attract members in and keep retention rates high. You can’t do this class anywhere else, so you HAVE to stay a member at our chain! Those who don’t create a unique branded offering will fail to compete in the market. To compete with the boutique offering, service standards will have to increase, from frontline staff to gym management and above.

The phenomenon of boutique gyms such as F45, Soulcycle and Barry’s Bootcamp will continue to grow, but with a diversification of their offerings. Research from Les Mills has shown that millennials (generally categorised as people born between 1981 and 1996) are willing to pay more for exercise experiences. These boutique centres are creating a luxury exercise experience – it is less about the class itself and more about the feeling and experience you get in the building. Growth in the sector was up 281% between 2013 and 2018 Boutique clubs also tend to pay better than traditional health clubs, so it may be harder as a chain club to recruit top talent as they have realised the importance of having rockstar instructors at the forefront of their offering. However, boutique gyms are often hard to make profitable, with around 30% of them actually losing money. If the type of training offered falls out of fashion then the whole business model will fall apart. As more niches develop, it will be harder to compete to the boutique fitness industry will likely become dominated by a few key brands in each sector, e.g. Crossfit, HIIT training, cycle, boxing and yoga/pilates.

One necessary change for the industry over the next 10 years will be to raise the quality of coaching, both in terms of group fitness instruction and personal training. The rise of social media, mainly Instagram and Facebook, has brought about a surge of information and education in the fitness industry. As the general public become more aware of the basics of fitness and training, their minimum expected standards from trainers will increase. They will be able to spot the people faking their way through and so to survive as a trainer you will have to keep learning, keep upskilling and be at the top of your game.

As well as in person demand growing, I believe the virtual and online fitness industries will keep growing at a huge rate. This has been exaggerated by the COVID-19 pandemic which forced gyms to close and has spurred millions of people to get moving in their living rooms. Joe Wicks, for example, has gained over 1.2 million new YouTube subscribers since starting his "PE with Joe" daily uploads, generating over 20 million views in one week. Online and virtual classes are a great entry point into fitness, as some people may feel they won’t feel welcome in a gym or aren’t fit enough to join. There are others who simply don’t have access to gym facilities because they travel or have young families. The growth of online training will help bring movement and fitness to more people, which can only be seen as a good thing. However, I don’t believe it will ever replace the need for in person delivery and live fitness classes. Although home workouts can be fantastic and there is real quality in the sector, fitness is a people business and having a trainer or instructor there to keep you accountable can often be what forces people to form habits. You can’t always get the same results from a home or virtual workout – often these are great for cardio, but to build muscle you are going to have to lift some weights which isn’t always safe to do without a trainer or instructor watching.

One of the factors that keeps people training at a specific gym is the community that they build there, the friendships they make with members, instructors and staff. The impact of these communities goes way beyond just exercise, a good community improves mental health and wellbeing. This is the main reason I feel there will always be a big demand for in person fitness classes and centres. Companies like Pelaton are trying to change this by creating an online community, where instructors can interact with members in their “class” through the digital screen, but there’s nothing really like human to human connection.

So the big question, will I still be able to be a group fitness instructor or personal trainer in 2030? Absolutely. Like every industry, those who are able to adapt and grow with the times will have long term success but those stuck in their ways and unwilling to learn will find themselves left behind. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments. What do you think the biggest development in the next 10 years will be? Leave a comment below!

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