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Pilates, strength training and yoga the most popular classes as Australians return to fitness facilities

Pilates, strength training and yoga the most popular classes as Australians return to fitness facilities
September 23, 2020

Australians have remain active during COVID-19 with 76% working out at least three times a week, but as they return to strict sanitation guidelines, physical layout to facilitate social distancing and limitation of people allowed in classes or studios are a key consideration.

Research released today by leading fitness technology platform Mindbody shows how Australians have been approaching fitness during COVID-19 and what the ‘new normal’ for the fitness industry looks like.

Among the many findings in The Fitness Industry and the New Normal report, Pilates, strength training and yoga have been identified as the most popular exercise classes that consumers want to undertake upon returning to facilities in Australia.

This demand stems from yoga, Pilates and HIIT classes having been the most popular virtual offerings while people exercised at home during the lockdown that impacted the country, and which continues to apply in Victoria.

Data in the report shows how Australians’ activity patterns have changed through the Coronavirus crisis, providing a definitive guide to the nation’s fitness and wellness behaviours, as well as revealing the top predictions for a post-COVID world.

Key findings from the The Fitness Industry and the New Normal include:

• Australians remain active during COVID-19 with 76% working out at least three times a week, and of these Australians, 15% are working out daily, or more. 
• Australians have drawn the motivation to continue their fitness journeys through COVID from having extra free time (49%), greater access to virtual workout content (39%), and as a means of coping with stress (36%).
• Conversely, almost half (45%) of the Australian population have engaged in fitness less frequently, mostly attributed to a lack of motivation (58%).
• Virtual fitness offerings are popular among and are likely here to stay, with over half utilising livestreamed or pre-recorded workouts (56%), and anticipating to continue this routine at least once a week (51%).
• Yoga (32%), Pilates (21%) and HIIT (14%) classes came out on top when assessing the popularity of virtual offerings, while Pilates (28%), strength training (26%) and yoga (26%) were the preferred in-person workouts upon reopening.
• The top three changes that consumers have been considering before returning to studios are strict sanitation guidelines (83%), physical layout to facilitate social distancing (67%) and limitation of people allowed in the classes or in-studio (66%).

The Mindbody report reveals changing fitness and wellness behaviours based on the analysis of a range of factors including exercise frequency, preferences and spend, uncovering the nation’s reasons for working out more or less frequently and most popular forms of exercise, and provides an insight into the evolution of the fitness industry as we currently know it. 

Key factors in this changing behaviour identified include:

• Stress is one of the key reasons Aussies have been working out more during COVID-19
• Livestream and/or pre-recorded workouts are being utilised by over half of customers 
• Pilates, strength training and yoga are the most popular fitness classes upon return to studios in Australia

Commenting on the findings, Hema Prakash, APAC Vice President at Mindbody, explained “the fitness industry in Australia has suffered significantly as a result of COVID-19 but has also encouraged a new found appreciation for exercise and a new era of digital fitness.

“This report shows that spend and frequency of exercise is almost back to pre-pandemic levels but the landscape looks very different. As we head towards 2021, our goal is to continue to help our customers navigate the new normal and provide them with the tools to future proof their businesses.”

Key areas identified in the report include:
Remaining engaged in fitness and workout frequency 
Australians remain active during COVID-19 with 76% working out at least three times a week, and of these Australians, 15% are working out daily, or more. Among the Australians who are working out more, they stated the main reasons for participating in exercise were; having additional free time (49%); more access to virtual workout content (39%); and stress (36%).

Despite this, close to half (45%) of Australians admit to working out less during COVID-19, than beforehand. Among this group, the report shows lack of access to their usual exercise studio (46%) and no equipment at home (34%) are key reasons for not participating in exercise. However, the primary inhibitor is a lack of motivation (58%). 

Virtual fitness is not a phase, ‘hybrid’ is the ‘new normal’ 
It is no secret virtual fitness is at its peak with studios rushing to market in April to cater to COVID-19 restrictions. This has resulted in over half (56%) of exercise fanatics across Australia utilising livestream and pre-recorded workouts in July alone. 

Australians do admit to preferring in-person classes to virtual; however, a high percentage will continue virtual workouts moving forward. Over half (51%) anticipate doing virtual workouts once per week and more than a third (37%) expect to work out virtually two and three times per week. Mindbody’s on-demand and livestream functional features have been released to ensure owners have the means to access their customers, and customers have access to exercise no matter the circumstance. 

Out of the virtual classes available, yoga (32%) is the most preferred virtual class and it was the most popular type of workout prior to COVID-19 (39%). Australians looking to explore new virtual workouts can use the Mindbody virtual navigation filter that can be applied on the app and online. 

Spend is almost back up to pre-COVID times with consumers wanting to support local businesses 
In April, during peak COVID-19 restrictions in Australia, spend on fitness services dropped drastically by 39%. However, in welcomed news for the fitness industry, the average spend in July almost rebounded to pre-COVID levels. Of this expenditure, more than half of Australians’ fitness budgets were dedicated to virtual fitness, whilst the rest went to existing fitness memberships.

The majority of Australians anticipate their spending to remain the same as it was before restrictions (67%) with a minority (16%) expecting to spend more on exercise after restrictions are completely lifted. Increased frequency of classes (57%), prioritising fitness (39%) and supporting local businesses (37%) are the top reasons Australians expect to spend more. 

Pilates, strength training and yoga win the popularity test, Australians remain loyal to their facilities 
Following the reopening of gyms and studios during the July period, the most popular classes to return to in person were Pilates (28%), strength training (26%) and yoga (26%). The top three exercises virtually participated in during the lockdown: virtual yoga (32%), virtual Pilates (21%) and virtual HIIT (14%).

The top three changes that consumers have been considering before returning to studios are strict sanitation guidelines (83%), physical layout to facilitate social distancing (67%) and limitation of people allowed in the classes or in-studio (66%). 

Loyalty remains high with more than half of Australians (56%) either working out at the same gym or suspending their membership. Even during lockdown a little over half (51%) of Australians stuck to their preferred gym and studio by engaging in virtual classes by their favourite local host. However, the minority of consumers (13%) switched to another gym, and of these consumers, 75% plan to stay with their new gym for longer term.

The survey was taken by 702 people across Australia about their pre-COVID-19 and current fitness habits with data collection taking place between 11th and 20th August.

Main image: Balanced Body Reformer courtesy of HF Industries. Other images courtesy of Mindbody client SOMA Collection.

Related Articles

21st September 2020 - Fitness Australia’s Barrie Elvish to meet with Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer to urge gym reopening

10th September 2020 - FITREC delivers Code of Practice for outdoor fitness training in public spaces

9th September 2020 - 12RND Fitness’ Michael Jordan backs challenge to Victorian Chief Health Officer’s comments that gyms are ‘high risk’

8th September 2020 - New body to advocate for the reopening of fitness centres in Victoria

3rd September 2020 - Snap Fitness aims to raise more than $50,000 to support mental health initiatives

1st September 2020 - Fitness Ventures Group looks to be part of re-defining the fitness experience

19th August 2020 - Mindbody announces management changes as company hit by higher loan costs

14th August 2020 - ISPO identifies health orientation as key fitness trend in post Coronavirus-world

13th August 2020 - Fitness Australia counters ‘misinformation’ that suggests gyms are a hotspot for COVID-19

13th August 2020 - Les Mills plans to activate fitness industry’s COVID-19 recovery with global campaign

11th August 2020 - Fitness facilities at the crossroads and demanding new approaches

22nd July 2020 - Viva Leisure acquires Plus Fitness’ master franchisor for $20 million

4th May 2020 - Australians’ physical activity declines during Coronavirus lockdown

7th April 2020 - Two-thirds of the world’s fitness clubs are currently closed

4th April 2020 - MINDBODY launches virtual wellness platform

31st March 2020 - With clubs closed fitness providers go online

19th February 2020 - NZREPS shares research insights into exercise and fitness trends for 2020

18th February 2020 - Mindbody opens new office in India

30th January 2020 - MINDBODY and F45 Training finalise new global agreement

6th January 2020 - Les Mills suggests the top 10 fitness trends for 2020

5th January 2020 - Pilates 100-year journey to be a global fitness phenomenon

4th December 2019 - MINDBODY’s inaugural Australia Wellness Index shows changing exercise behaviours of Australians

18th October 2019 - MINDBODY part of investment group backing active living platform Fitt

11th October 2019 - Soma Collection a new entry in Sydney’s premium gym market

7th September 2019 - Global Wellness Institute announces new initiative to define yoga therapy

22nd June 2018 - International Day of Yoga marked around the world

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