For obvious reasons, most people who had any sort of fitness routine were forced to change it in 2020. Instead of going to the gym or attending group fitness classes, we set up mats in our living rooms for virtual workouts, went on socially distanced hikes, and frantically scoured the internet for a set of dumbbells.
But it wasn’t just people who had to pivot—the fitness industry as a whole did as well. And it wasn’t just the pandemic, either. From the reinvigorated movement against systemic racism to the mental health impacts of the year’s collective trauma, 2020 left fitness companies with a lot to think about. To find out what’s next for the industry, I talked to Dominique Brown, Director of Marketing at The Class, about her company’s journey throughout 2020 as well as her predictions for the future of health and fitness in 2021.
Virtual and At-Home Fitness
Largely out of necessity, virtual and at-home fitness blew up in 2020. The concept had been increasing in popularity for years with the introduction of more high-tech, at-home equipment such as Peloton bikes as well as increased work-from-home flexibility. But it got a huge boost last spring when people—even those who were completely convinced they couldn’t work out at home—had no other choice. In fact, health and fitness app downloads increased by 47 percent in Q2 2020. Now, with some lockdowns still in effect, it’s no surprise that only 15 percent of gym members think a gym membership is the best way to achieve their fitness goals in 2021.
The Class had launched its digital studio in October 2019 and was streaming about three classes each day. “But then everything shut down in March, and we completely switched to basically being a digital at-home fitness company overnight,” says Brown. That the company had conveniently launched its live-streaming platform just a few months prior to the start of the pandemic—and that the workout itself requires no equipment—made this pivot much easier than it would have been otherwise. Now, The Class streams about 70 live classes per week and offers over 100 on-demand videos. And since there are so many opportunities to participate virtually, people from around the globe are discovering The Class. Brown says, “It’s a completely different company than a year ago.”
Merging of Fitness and Wellness
Another major impact of 2020 has been an increased focus on mental health. In September 2020, over 80 percent of people who took an anxiety screen scored with moderate to severe symptoms. Of course, the circumstances and trauma that contributed to this throughout the year have been devastating—but it’s worth acknowledging the fact that more and more people feel comfortable talking openly about mental health issues and even seeking help. And for many, that “help” comes in the form of staying active.
This article was originally published on forbes.com