Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

November 2021

New SFIA Report Tracks Changes in Fitness Industry

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) has released its 2021 Tracking the Fitness Movement Report, which features an in-depth analysis of trends, participation habits and purchasing behaviors in the fitness industry. The pandemic impact reverberated throughout the sports and recreation world, but nowhere was the simultaneous positive and negative impact felt more dramatically than in the fitness business.

While participation levels in fitness remained strong in 2020, staying flat from 2019 with more than 200 million fitness participants, the pandemic altered the sorts of activities that individuals could participate in. Activities that could be done at home, outdoors or through digital connection thrived, while fitness activities taking place in health clubs or other enclosed fitness spaces struggled due to forced health club shutdowns.

2020 showed us that Americans really came to understand the value of being active during the pandemic, not just for physical health, but for mental health. This led to changes in the types of fitness activities that active Americans were participating in, so dramatically affecting the fitness business that it even led to a reduced supply of fitness products on shelves and online. Walking for Fitness, Bodyweight Exercise, Yoga, Running/Jogging and Free Weights were the top fitness activities that Americans participated in during the pandemic.

"Despite the challenges we faced with COVID-19, more Americans longed to be active," said Tom Cove, president & CEO of the SFIA. "We saw individuals adapting the nature and venue of their fitness activities. While the connected fitness trend was already on the rise prior to the pandemic, it allowed active Americans to digitally connect. We saw more capabilities to be physically active from our own homes, and the use of digital tools to connect, partnered with the ability to participate in socially-distanced outdoor activities."

One unique characteristic of fitness in 2020 was that Americans focused more on a single activity rather than a wide variety, which had been the previous trend. With many health clubs being closed for extended periods of time, Americans had fewer options to stay active in a communal facility, and in turn, we saw a 40.5% increase in at-home equipment sales. Some of the top sellers included free weights, with a more than 104% increase in home-use sales, with other items seeing massive increases since 2019, such as home gyms (74%), exercise cycles (67.1%), rowing machines (47.1%) and treadmills (44%).

"Looking forward, we do believe the health club consumer will return to clubs, although it may take time," Cove said. "The multitude of fitness activities to choose from, along with access to innovative new equipment, group classes, and in-person personalized training, will attract and inspire returning and new fitness enthusiasts."

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