Report Names Walking for Fitness, Yoga as Favorite Fitness Activities

runner near lakeMore than two years from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as society continues to work out its "new normal," the fitness industry remains in flux, but with optimism and many future opportunities. That's according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), which has released its 2022 Tracking the Fitness Movement Report, which features an in-depth analysis of workout trends, participation habits and purchasing behaviors in the fitness industry.

While the demand for at-home fitness products has diminished from pandemic-driven high watermarks, the business remains strong and reflects a positive long-term outlook. The institutional fitness business—health clubs and equipment sales—which suffered during the pandemic, rebounded in 2021, but has not yet recovered to 2019 levels, for the most part, SFIA reports.

With help from the reopening of health clubs as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, the largest one-year increases in 2021 came in treadmill participation (up 7.6%), cross-training style workouts (up 6.4%), stair climbing machines (up 4.7%), sole recumbent or upright stationary cycling (up 3.7%) and boot camp style training (up 4.0%). Some of this positive change is enhanced by comparisons against a very tough previous year.

"We are seeing that Americans today have a greater awareness of the benefits of activity to their physical, mental and emotional health than ever before," said Tom Cove, president & CEO, SFIA. "Once the ability to be active was restricted because of the pandemic, people realized the need to add fitness routines to their daily lives and had to find ways to do so at a time when possibilities were limited."

Easily accessible activities such as walking for fitness, running, kettlebells and yoga, which saw growth during the pandemic with the increase in at-home fitness, continued to see high participation rates over the two-year period. Running/jogging and weight resistance machines had the highest core participation rates (more than 50 times per year) in the country, while yoga continued its sharp multi-year growth in participation, rising 4.7% to 34.3 million participants. Further indicating yoga's projected sustainability, core yoga participation grew 5.7% in 2021 and is up 23.8% over two years.

While many health clubs re-opened doors and reclaimed members in 2021, there is a lingering pandemic impact on the fitness industry, as many clubs were forced to close their doors for good. But, overall, the fitness industry is still seeing good retention in 2021. As fitness enthusiasts recognized a lack of variety in fitness options and missed social opportunities of group classes and the convenience of going to clubs near their office or home in 2021, we expect to see club participation levels continue to grow through 2022 as fitness routines evolve in post-pandemic life and more pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Cove states, "The key challenge for the fitness industry going forward is going to be all about how to navigate the fitness experience, and how to capitalize on this increased awareness and demand for fitness by delivering high-quality, cost-effective value propositions for people looking to establish their new routine."

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