When the Covid pandemic hit, gyms and fitness centres were among the first places to shut in the wake of the lockdowns and in the ensuing weeks health-conscious Australians were forced to get flexible with their fitness regime.
Weights and yoga mats flew off shelves; many turned to apps, YouTube and social media streaming to stay fit; while others discovered the joys of exercising in the fresh air with a spike in walking, running and cycling.
Now that restrictions have eased and fitness centres are starting to reopen, many are wondering what the future of fitness will look like post-pandemic.
While no one knows the exact impact the pandemic will have on the industry long term,
Ewan Birnie, National Academic Manager at leading fitness education provider FIAFitnation, says there is likely to be a permanent shift towards online and outdoor workouts.
Here are his predictions for the future of fitness in Australia post-pandemic:
Outdoor training is here to stay – and not just bootcamps
With an outdoor environment shown to be safer from an infection perspective, it is likely that many Australians will feel more comfortable continuing to exercise outside for the foreseeable future and will choose this option where available.
Smaller gyms, which will find it harder to meet social distancing requirements, will be forced to take their business outside to survive. In some cases this may even see a pivot of their business model with outdoor spaces providing some refuge from rent and other costly overheads associated with running a studio. This also has a flow on saving to clients who mightn’t be able to afford their usual fitness fix in the current economic climate.
There are also many added health benefits to exercising outside including vitamin D and the mental boost that comes with being in nature.
Online training will become part of the regular routine – but not all
Technology has played a big role in keeping us connected during the COVID-19 pandemic and the fitness industry has been one of the most effective at transitioning online to continue to offer engaging and accessible ways for people to workout from home.
Most of the big players – Fitness Playground, Virgin Active, Fitness First, Anytime Fitness – pivoted quickly, and in some cases created online exercise delivery platforms from scratch.
During the peak of lockdown, Aussies were being trained for free in their living room by the likes of Chris Hemsworth and discovered they could use apps such as ClassPass or MindBody to stream a spin class in Sydney or a Barre class in Brooklyn, NYC.
Online programs have been such a hit during the pandemic that many gym-goers and trainers are questioning the need to return to the gym. But online fitness doesn’t take into account the social aspect of going to the gym, how hard it is to stay motivated especially when working full time, and the need for equipment to achieve certain fitness goals.
While online workouts are an integral part of the future of fitness, human nature means there will always be a place for gyms, even in a post-pandemic society.
Hybrid fitness is the future – online + outdoor + indoor
When gyms closed their doors during the COVID-19 lockdown many people discovered online workouts that they can do in 15, 20 or 30 minute increments, which is great when you’re pressed for time.
The pandemic also taught us the value of fresh air and how good outdoor exercise is for our physical and mental wellbeing. It was one of the few things considered ‘essential’ after all.
But it is hard to beat a good session at the gym for weight loss, muscle building or blowing off steam and there’s nothing like face-to-face time with an expert to master form, stay motivated and prevent injury.
This pandemic has shown us there are myriad ways to stay fit and healthy, and a hybrid of online, outdoor and gym workouts will be the easiest way for many to make a fitness routine stick post-pandemic.
Weights + wellness – expect more from trainers
For many fitness professionals, the recent downtime has been a chance to upskill and add a complimentary service to make their business more attractive post-pandemic.
With online courses available in everything from nutrition to gut health, post-pandemic PTs will offer a more holistic package to lure their clients back and give their business the best chance of survival.
Tech will play a bigger role in training trainers
As one of Australia’s leading fitness education providers, FIAFitnation has always been ahead of the curve. It was the first institute to combine nutrition education with fitness and when the pandemic hit it pivoted its teaching business online to ensure Australia’s future fitness professionals could keep up with their studies, while also offering existing trainers the chance to use the downtime to upskill.
Before the pandemic, around two thirds of students at FIAFitnation were studying online and that quickly increased to 100 per cent during the lockdown with lecturers increasingly hosting classes and catch ups on Zoom, and students uploading assessments via video.
Off the back of the success of the online program, FIAFitnation is considering moving the delivery of all theory classes online permanently to minimise the amount of time students need to spend on campus, with many indicating that they would relish the added flexibility.
In response to the likely shift in the industry post-pandemic, FIAFitnation is looking at bolstering course content on outdoor training and adding a new course on online training to help prepare new graduates, as well as upskill those already in the industry.
For more information visit fiafitnation.com.au
Edited by Arrnott Olssen