Fitness Industry, Hurt By COVID Shutdowns, Works To Bounce Back

By John Trump
Carolina Journal

The government-imposed lockdowns of last year wrecked the global economy, and the fitness industry was among the businesses hurt most by the closures.

But a new study finds the industry is “poised for incredible growth … with fitness trends undergoing a seismic shift away from gyms and towards outdoors, home fitness, and digital options.” 

RunRepeat, which specializes in shoes for athletes and studies the fitness industry, examined the state of that industry post-pandemic. To get the numbers, RunRepeat, its website says, researched and analyzed hundreds of studies and compiled them into an overview of more than 15 fitness industry statistics, including worldwide gym memberships, online fitness and apps, and sales of fitness trackers and fitness equipment.

“The industries hit the hardest by the pandemic were the gym, health club, and boutique fitness studio industries,” RunRepeat says, including a drop of 58.30% in the first year of the pandemic.

The industry saw a 32.45% decline in revenue in 2020, and it’s expected to rebound to 0.55% pre-pandemic levels by year’s end, the study finds.

“In 2021, (gyms and health clubs) are projected to still be down 22.5% from their pre-pandemic revenue levels in 2019. Meanwhile, online/digital fitness, fitness apps, fitness equipment, and fitness tracker markets all experienced significant growth due to the pandemic,” including a 40.61% growth in revenue last year, projected to be up 66.32% by the end of 2021, in comparison to their pre-pandemic levels

“From 2021 to 2028, the online/digital fitness industry is projected to have the highest growth rate of 33.10% per year,” the study says.

The global pandemic is the biggest disruption the fitness industry has ever faced, wrote Nick Rizzo of RunRepeat.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has directly affected the fitness industry in 2020 as many gyms and fitness centers were forced to shut down operations to reduce the spread of the virus,” the study concludes. “The fitness industry suffered a huge decline in revenue, but is expected to start to recover in 2021 and the succeeding years as people put more emphasis on their health and well-being.”

In North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, closed gyms in March 2020. He allowed them to reopen months later, at starkly limited capacity, and gyms in many towns, including Raleigh and Cary in Wake County, still require facemasks. 

About 25% of gyms in the U.S. were expected to close by the end of last year, an earlier RunRepeat study found. Further, the gym and health club industry lost an estimated $14 billion from mid-March to Aug. 31, according to data compiled by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association.