Guest Column - April 2021
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inPERSPECTIVE / WELLNESS

Reopening Fitness & Wellness Facilities
10 wellness trends for 2021


While fitness facilities have struggled over the past year with pandemic-related closures and reduced capacities, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. By the end of the year, these facilities may be getting back to more normal operations. Being aware of the latest trends and what gym-goers are looking for will be more important than ever.

Every year, WTS International collects the latest trends in spa, fitness, lifestyle and wellness from service providers and industry experts, presenting its findings in a trends report. Here are the 10 trends they found for 2021.

1. AIR PURIFICATION: Indoor air quality has been an industry concern for some time, and the spread of COVID-19 has brought the issue to the fore for many consumers. As we return to fitness centers, schools and other shared indoor spaces, people will be expecting businesses to include filtration systems. Adding air filtration to your fitness facility will give you one more amenity to use to entice new members.

2. MENTAL WELLNESS: More devices and apps will feature built-in alerts to remind users to stop and breathe, or take a break with a short guided meditation. Wearables will help identify habits and track progress toward reducing stress and improving health. Gyms should consider offering holistic classes that connect the body and mind to strengthen total well-being.

3. VIRTUAL TRAINING: Over the course of the pandemic, fitness centers that have been able to open have often opened with limited capacities, causing many trainers to turn to virtual classes. WTS reports that this "has allowed many gyms to expand beyond their local clientele to reach a global audience, while allowing customers to connect through a live experience, as if they were in a traditional group class." This pivot has given many gyms the ability to compete directly with home gym brands like Peloton. Gyms can continue offering virtual options to keep members engaged and connected.

4. CIRCADIAN HEALTH: WTS reports that people are "looking beyond the mere number of hours of sleep they get to better understand their quality of rest." Plenty of research demonstrates the impact of circadian rhythms, or a person's internal clock, on health. Environmental factors like light can affect circadian rhythms, so more devices that filter out blue light from screens. While this trend isn't as likely to affect fitness facility offerings, it is good to be aware of, and emphasize, the importance of getting proper sleep.

5. LYMPHATIC HEALTH: "Your lymphatic system extends throughout the body and acts as a drainage network, eliminating waste from your cells that could otherwise lead to health issues," reports WTS. Massage has been a common offering at fitness facilities that helps with lymphatic drainage, boosting the immune system and reducing inflammation. This trend is now likely to expand to other popular trends like dry brushing, foam rolling and specific exercise programs like trampoline classes and dynamic stretching.

6. INTEREST IN NATURE: As people have spent more time inside, more people are getting interested in nature, including more people biking and hiking and taking immersive trips into nature. Taking fitness classes outdoors, providing community gardens and offering ways to get away and into the great outdoors are all ways to take advantage of this trend.

7. WELLNESS COMMUNITIES: Community-oriented spaces will focus more on activities that promote wellness, with outdoor lifestyle perks. "What we're seeing in wellness design lately is a desire for fresh air," said Mary Lynn Mellinger, director of Planning and Design at WTS International. "This is of course driven by the pandemic but will no doubt continue as time goes by. That includes more indoor/outdoor spaces, offering people the opportunity to enjoy social interactions while allowing for the free flow of air to combat virus transmission. Windows that function and permit breezes to flow through and naturally cool and ventilate the rooms are popular as well. Everything old is new again!"

8. VIRTUAL CARE: Even traditional medical practices are joining this trend. In the realm of the fitness consumer, expect wearables to expand to track more than activity levels, food and sleep—adding goal-setting options and possibly sharing health data with doctors.

9. HEALTHY BOOSTS: You'll see more adaptogens (natural substances with medicinal properties) and CBD getting blended into smoothies, coffee and topicals, so if your facility offers a concession, these are healthy additions you might consider.

10. POST-PANDEMIC BEHAVIOR: WTS reports that "some wellness trends introduced during the pandemic will be here to stay. Businesses will continue to offer work-from-home options, decrease nonessential business travel and enhance corporate wellness opportunities to support employee mental and physical wellbeing." In addition, "a simpler, minimalistic lifestyle will prevail, centered on activities like biking, gardening and local travel." RM



ABOUT THE AUTHOR
WTS International is a leading spa, wellness and lifestyle consultancy and management firm. Its clients are award-winning spa, recreation and wellness resort destinations, fitness centers and community leisure facilities. WTS provides feasibility studies, planning and design consultancy, pre-opening support, and daily management for spas, wellness and leisure facilities worldwide. For more information, visit www.wtsinternational.com.