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How COVID changed the fitness world

Updated: May 2, 2022

By Amelia Orlando

When statewide stay-at-home orders occurred March 19 2020, the lives of most Americans changed drastically.

Lockdown mandates heavily limited exercise possibilities among individuals and caused stress and uncertainty.

People had to get creative to fulfill their fitness needs and maintain their personal goals.

Getting creative due to gym closures

It is not a surprise that the word “exercise” spiked on Google searches during the pandemic. With government-forced gym closures all over the United States, people had to turn to new methods to remain fit. Now 25 percent of gyms will close by 2020 and many have filed for bankruptcy, including, Cyc Fitness, YogaWorks, Flywheel Sports, 24 Hour Fitness, Gold’s Gym, and Modell’s Sporting.

Creative ways to exercise during the pandemic had to remain safe while maintaining physical distance from others. Coronavirus transmission risk seemed to be reduced outdoors, allowing walking, running, or biking a favored activity.

Running seems to be a popular workout activity among individuals due to various benefits.

“I noticed that my mood improved when I ran and so did my immunity,” admitted Sydney Skipper, a junior at the College of Charleston.

Online classes and workout groups grew in popularity during the coronavirus lockdown. Many people used these methods as an opportunity to exercise more and discover new ways to do it.

Tea Asllanaj, an active TikTok fitness creator, had to work extra hard to gather inspiration.

“Watching YouTube videos really gave me a lot of inspiration, it gave me new ideas to try different things"

It was extremely common for individuals to turn to social networks to find videos and advice for home fitness sessions. Videos that were tagged with the “homeworkout” hashtag on TikTok generated 6.6 billion views during the coronavirus lockdown. The bedroom appeared to be the favored sport to do fitness activities at home revealing 6.5 million views for videos tagged “bedroomworkout."

Short and brief workout videos on YouTube seemed to be favored

among younger individuals. “I like that it’s free to watch a YouTube

workout, you don’t have to pay for anything,” Skipper explained, who

continued to admit that the 15-minute abb workouts on YouTube were

her go to.

A lot of people seemed to have turned to self-improvement YouTube

videos during lockdown. According to a study conducted by USA Today,

videos titled “self-care” have more than doubled, home workout videos

have climbed by 515 percent.

The rise of fitness and mental health apps

Getting creative during the coronavirus lockdown also means searching for other digital methods of working out. A study done by the World Economic Forum revealed that downloads of health and fitness apps grew by 46 percent worldwide during the pandemic.

The highest increase of downloads was unsurprisingly in areas that experienced larger lockdowns.

Autumn Nivens, a College of Charleston exercise science major confessed that she solely relied on fitness apps to get her through the pandemic.

“I got the RunKeeper app. I use it when I go for runs around the city.” - Autumn Nivens

Running apps seemed to have peaked in popularity during the coronavirus lockdown. A survey conducted by Women’s Health, revealed that 82 percent of runners in the United Kingdom used running apps to help clear their mind. 78 percent said that it allowed them to feel saner and more in control during the coronavirus pandemic.

The RunKeeper app saw a rise in registrations by 667 percent one month after lockdown was enforced. Now they see a 252 percent increase year-on-year globally in registrations.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there was a 200 percent increase in the use of mental health apps. With at least 20,000 mental health apps that currently exist today, Calm and Headspace are the two most popular.

“My mental health was not good at all during the lockdown,” says Asllanaj.

Her favorite app to use during the pandemic was the calm app. The calm app primarily focuses on mindfulness and meditation.

“Anxiety and depression were normal for me during the pandemic, I had to find ways around it,” according to Asllanaj.

A study by Deloitte Insights revealed that about four in 10 adults in the United States, reported symptoms of anxiety and depression from June 2020 to March 2020. The study continued to reveal that pandemic also allowed people to open up about their mental health and made treatment more socially acceptable.

The study also revealed that consumer spending on wellness apps grew by more than 60 percent in the first 30 days on the coronavirus pandemic.

Annamaria Costanzo, a private yoga instructor revealed that she favored the Down Dog app during the pandemic. “It allowed me to still feel engaged with the yoga community without being in a big group,” she said.

Down Dog is the highest rated app for practicing yoga at home. Yoga studios are known to include large groups of people in confined spaces, so the app allows you to have a similar experience in the safety of your own home.

The 'athleisure' and equipment boom

The coronavirus pandemic has certainly allowed retailers to experience a dramatic rise in athleisure sales. People have begun to live in their sweats, yoga pants, and shorts due to spending more time at home.

Brands like Lululemon™, Under Armour™, Puma™, Gap’s Athleta™ and Brooks™, all experienced growth in sales due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Most college students admit that most of their money went towards gym clothes during the uncertain months of the pandemic.

“I spent a lot of money during lockdown,” said Skipper “. I bought a lot of Gym Shark™ clothes.” she further noted.

Gym Shark was one of the few athleisure companies that really took advantage of the rise in sales during the pandemic. They revealed that over 60 percent of people still expect to spend more on fitness clothing than before the pandemic happened.

Sales in yoga mats, resistance bands, and dumbbells are also the top fitness equipment that were sold during the pandemic. According to Skipper, “dumbbells and resistant bands were my go-to.”

Asllanaj, also admits that she purchased some dumbbells and an an indoor bicycle from Amazon.

According to The Washington Post, Americans were spending heavily on $3,000 cardio machines to $20 yoga mats during the coronavirus lockdown. Health and fitness equipment revenue doubled to $2.3 billion, from March to October. Data revealed that treadmills soared to 135 percent while sales of stationary bikes tripled.

Peloton is one fitness company that reveals the spike in sales growth brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. Demands for the bike soared as gyms became restricted and people began investing in home gyms.

Nivens, said that she noticed a lot of people in her neighborhood building home gyms during the pandemic.

“Sometimes I would just go next door and get on my friend’s mom’s peloton,.” she added.

In fact, During the pandemic Peloton™ reported revenue of $758 million, which was a 232 percent increase from the same period before the pandemic year.

Mirror, the reflective-glass fitness device acquired by Lululemon and Athletica, also experienced a rise in sales. It was reported that the company ended 2020 with $150 million in revenue.

The future for fitness

No doubt has the fitness industry been among the hardest hit aeffected by the coronavirus pandemic. Job loss in the fitness industry became a major issue during the pandemic.

Around 500,000 gym industry employees have been laid off due to the coronavirus, and 58 percent of trainers lost some or all of their income.

Now that the pandemic has hopefully started to come to an end, 83 percent of trainers say that they will work primarily online.

But it is estimated that the fitness industry won’t fully recover until 2023 or 2024 and at-home fitness training will still remain relevant.

In fact, 25 percent of American’s don’t plan on going back to the gym after the pandemic. There is still a major lack of trust in the sanitation of gyms.

“I found it really hard to go back to the gym after the pandemic,” Nivens said, adding she will return to her rock-climbing gym but isn’t sure about her regular gym. “I hated wearing a mask.”

According to Autumn Nivens, she will return to her rock-climbing gym, but she is unsure of going back to a regular gym.

Tea Asllanaj said that she was in fact excited to go back to the gym and was there right when it opened.

“I did notice the lack of people for the first couple of months,” she said.

A popular opinion among individuals is that online fitness classes have just made everything easier. According to Freeletics 60 percent of Americans plan to cancel their membership and 59 percent of gym members are considering canceling.

Annamaria Constanza, noticed that after a year or two after the coronavirus lockdown, Yoga studios are just now becoming normal again.

“It feels good to be able to practice among groups of people again,” she said.

It is estimated that the fitness industry will be able to rebound completely from the coronavirus during 2023 or 2024. At-home activity will still most likely remain relevant.

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