Fit for the Future

15/09/20

One unexpected effect of lockdown has been to focus many people’s minds on their fitness with even occasional exercisers increasing their workout frequency by 300% or more.

This has been against a backdrop of closed gyms and, initially, only an hour’s period of permitted exercise each day. So, with nowhere to go, a limited time to exercise and an abundance of innovative technology at the touch of a button, this has brought fitness into the home. This is despite the fact that 87% of people are hindered by limited space and the feeling that they don’t have the right equipment.

Sensing this seismic shift in the way we aim to keep fit, The Shopper Agency joined forces with product design and innovation agency Design Partners to delve into the world of home fitness to discover trends, attitudes and experiences as well as to understand what brands need to do in order to support their shoppers in being fit for the future.

To do this we surveyed a sample of over 1,000 people from Gen Zers to Late Boomers and discovered some very interesting insights into how people are behaving. The research also revealed how brands need to adapt to keep up pace with the ever-changing landscape. Staying in really is the new going out.

The first of these findings was that inner health has become more important than external appearances, especially since lockdown. A huge 70% of people said that external appearance was less important with 69% saying that inner health was a priority. 36% of all respondents also reported that exercise was an increasingly vital way to maintain their mental health during lockdown, including 41.1% of the men interviewed. Getting a good night’s rest is considered to be essential for mental wellbeing so it came as no surprise that 74% of people have also been more motivated to ensure this since lockdown began.

Another important aspect of maintaining mental health is mixing with others. So, linked with the previous points, many people told us that, while only 19% missed the gym itself, they did feel they were lacking the social aspects of exercising in gyms and fitness classes. The most affected were the 65+ age range (40%) followed by the 25-34 year old age group (32.2%). As one person commented "Sometimes, there is a 'vibe' that is uplifting in group exercise that carries you through when struggling."

While receiving positive guidance and support in their fitness routines was less important for men, 20% of women commented that this was what they found was lacking when exercising at home – surely a reason why 77% liked the idea of watching, and participating in, live-streamed exercise classes and virtual coaching.

Martin Fawcett Managing Director & Founder

“Technology and self-reliance are accelerating the spending maturity of the younger generations quicker than anyone predicted, which makes 
it imperative for retailers to understand their behaviours”

For brands looking for guidance as to what this could mean for them, there are many positives that can be taken from the research. One aspect that was especially important, particularly for the 18-24 year-olds, was that the fitness brands they would prefer to interact with should be part of a larger community. This has surely been reflected by names like Strava, Peloton and Tempo, the latter having seen a 35% increase in user workouts since the lockdown period began.

Having the ability to use tech to track fitness levels is also of far greater importance to this group. From heart-rate monitors to calorie counters, all are of interest to over 80% of respondents. But they also believe that exercise should be fun as well with 85% agreeing that this is vital.

Looking to the Boomers, their priorities show quite a marked difference with far less focus on having technological affirmation as to their fitness levels. They evidently also don’t necessarily see fun as part of the equation with only 57% regarding this as being important. Where the two groups do converge, however, is in the need to deal with trusted brands with 93% of the younger group and 90% of the older one stating this as important.

So, looking to the future, brands in the fitness market undoubtedly have plenty to play for, providing they can fulfil the many and varied requirements shoppers have of them. Whether this will also mean the gradual disappearance of more and more gyms, we’ll just have to wait and see. But one thing’s for sure - home workouts are here to stay.

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