Gyms & Studios Set For Roaring Recovery, New Les Mills Report Finds

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  • The 2021 Les Mills Global Fitness Report suggests in-person workouts are enjoying a “live revival” around the globe 
  • Having canvassed 12,157 consumers across five continents, the research found class occupancy is at 120% of pre-COVID levels where capacity restrictions have lifted
  • The report also tips “omnichannel fitness” to prevail, with 80% of gym members planning to continue using digital workouts post-pandemic 
  • The New Zealand-based company is also preparing to launch Les Mills Connect to support club and instructor growth in the post-pandemic fitness landscape 

AUCKLAND, New Zealand — A new report from leading group fitness provider Les Mills has presented strong evidence that gyms will make a roaring comeback as the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Despite fears the lockdown-inspired home workout boom would spell the end for fitness facilities, Les Mills research – featuring insights from 12,157 consumers across five continents – suggests in-person workouts are enjoying a “live revival” around the globe. 

The 2021 Les Mills Global Fitness Report found gyms worldwide are making strong recoveries since reopening, with class occupancy up 20% on pre-COVID levels in markets where capacity restrictions have been lifted. 

The research suggests appetite for live fitness experiences in groups is soaring, with two-thirds of gym members preferring to work out with others, rather than solo. It also found live fitness classes to be twice as popular as Livestream options at home. 

In both cases, the report found live instructors and the energy of the group as key factors drawing fitness fans back to the studio. 

“Much like bars, restaurants and sports events, fitness is experiencing a real ‘live revival’ as people make up for lost time with renewed appreciation for real-world social settings,” commented Phillip Mills, Les Mills Founder and Executive Director. 

Gyms & Studios Set For Roaring Recovery, New Les Mills Report Finds

Image: Les Mills

The Les Mills report also found: 

  • 82% of consumers now regularly exercise (or soon plan to) while 75% of this group are doing gym-type activities 
  • HIIT is the world’s most popular fitness class, favoured by 31% of participants, closely followed by indoor cycling (30%) and dance classes (28%) 
  • 69% of the fitness market in Japan describe themselves as “absolute beginners”, versus 30% in the UK, 26% in the UK, 20% in China and just 12% in India

Rise of “omnichannel fitness” and convergence of global markets
Despite the clamour to throw off the shackles of lockdown, the Les Mills report also tips a blend of in-gym and home workouts – described as “omnichannel fitness” – to prevail, with 80% of gym members planning to continue using digital workouts post-pandemic. 

“Consumers are taking an omnichannel approach to their training to stay more active, mixing thrilling live workouts at the gym with the convenience of digital workouts at home,” Mills added. 

Combined, these findings echo those of ClassPass, which saw demand for “in real life” experiences soar between April and June, and digital fitness platform Fiit, which noted just 10% of digital fitness users were planning to cancel their memberships once restrictions were lifted. 

Fiit’s research, published in May, found almost 50% of digital fitness users were planning to adopt a hybrid approach to fitness post-pandemic, with technology affording consumers more autonomy than ever before. 

Les Mills’ research suggests a split of 60:40 between exercising at the gym and at home will eventually win out, with this ratio favoured by the majority of those canvassed (59%). 

Mills also noted a marked consistency in trends around the globe, including those in territories with wildly different experiences of the pandemic, such as Australia, which has recorded 80,402 COVID cases to the United States, which has just passed 41 million. 

“It’s fascinating to note just how consistent certain insights are across all corners of the globe – far more than we’ve seen in the past,” Mills wrote in the report’s foreword. 

“Through disrupting the ways we deliver fitness, technology appears to be bringing us closer together – creating convergence between markets and hastening the adoption of key trends.” 

Gyms & Studios Set For Roaring Recovery, New Les Mills Report Finds

Image: Les Mills

“Fast-changing fitness landscape”
Since it was founded in 1968 by four-time Olympian Les Mills, the New Zealand-based company has established itself as one of the world leaders in group fitness. 

Today Les Mills workouts are delivered by 140,000 certified instructors in 21,000 clubs across 100 countries and its digital presence has only been bolstered by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Throughout the pandemic, Les Mills has pivoted to adapt its model and support our club partners and instructors,” Anna Henwood, Chief Marketing Officer Les Mills International told Welltodo. 

“LES MILLS On Demand (LMOD) saw rapid growth during the digital fitness boom, with a 900% increase in downloads in 2020 alone,” she added. 

Now the company is readying the launch of a new marketing and creative engine called Marketing Studio, followed closely by Les Mills Connect, which will house “a suite of solutions to support club and instructor growth in the post-pandemic fitness landscape”. 

These initiatives, Henwood explained, will enable clubs to easily and more effectively tackle key challenges such as attracting new members through marketing, driving growth through group fitness and recruiting “rockstar instructors”. 

Martin Franklin, CEO Les Mills Europe said: “Providing world-class programming is a given – this is about going one step beyond and bolstering the strategies and tactics that ensure [club]partners can maximise their investment and drive growth through group fitness. 

“Whether it’s through marketing, events, training or recruitment, we want to take the pain out of these processes and produce the results our partners need to scale up in the fast-changing fitness landscape.” 

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