This has really been a year like no other for the health and fitness industry. The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed many areas of life. The health and fitness industry being no exception which of course means quite a substantial change in lifestyle for anyone directly employed in the sector, or for those of us who live lives that are highly orientated around health and fitness.
During the initial period of lockdown and level 5 restrictions, gyms and individual trainers had to quickly pivot and reinvent themselves to offer online classes, recorded video sessions and one-on-one virtual coaching. Notable personalities such as Joe Wicks have embraced this shift and used it as a way to further develop their personal brand. In early 2020 Wicks began “PE With Joe” on YouTube to try to help children stay active. This livestream had a profound impact and was viewed by over a million users worldwide.
One of the main talking points to emerge from this shift however was how many people were surprised to discover that working out in their own homes was extremely convenient. Work/life balance and flexibility has been a growing theme in the modern world of work for a number of years now. For many, working out at home and skipping a trip to the gym, allows for additional time to be spent with kids, a partner or catching up in other areas.
As a result, the way we work out my never be the same again. People may not return to gyms in the same numbers as before. Perhaps those who are more into strength training will, because they need access to certain machines that are quite expensive to buy for your own home. But when it comes to the likes of yoga classes and HIIT classes, a large portion of the population could potentially opt for the online version of a class as opposed to in-person.
However, there is always the negative side. While exercising at home can certainly provide further work/life balance, for many, the social aspect of the gym is irreplicable. The sense of community and comradery gained from playing a team sport or training as part of a group is just as important for our well-being as our physical health.
As the economy reopens, maybe there’s more than one’s personal preference when deciding whether or not to return to the gym. Perhaps there does have to be an element of loyalty and supporting your own local community following a period of economic downturn. What’s more is that an instructor whose job is to focus on you specifically is always going to be much more beneficial than someone online who’s trying to address a much broader audience. For now, the only certainty is that it will be interesting to see how everything evolves in the immediate future and progresses into a post-covid world.
Seamus Nolan is a health and fitness enthusiast. Here he talks about managing exercise and home workouts over the past year, and the hopeful return of gyms and team sports.